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.
CHAP. 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.
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.(1) Since therefore I am brought, in the course of my little work, to this point,(2) I require to know of Marcion the origin of his apostles even—I, who am to some degree a new disciple? the follower of no other master; who at the same time(5) can believe nothing, except that nothing ought to be believed hastily(6) (and that I may further say is hastily believed, which is believed without any examination(7) of its beginning); in short, I who have the best reason possible for bringing this inquiry to a most careful solution,(8) 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(10) 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 shipmaster of Pontus,(1) if you have never taken on board your small craft(2) any contraband goods or smuggler’s cargo, if you have never thrown overboard or tampered 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(3) you admitted the Apostle Paul on board, who ticketed him,(4) what owner forwarded him,(5) who handed him to you,(6) that so you may land him without any misgiving,(7) lest he should turn out to belong to him,(8) who can substantiate his claim to him by producing all his apostolic writings.(9) He professes himself to be “an apostle”—to use his own, words—“not of men, nor by man, but by Jesus Christ.”(10) 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;(11) one man appends his seal, another registers in the public records.(12) 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.”(13) 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(14) in the character of a disciple and an inquirer; that so I may even thus(15) 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.”(16) 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,(17) on his receiving from him good for evil, we have nothing else than an anticipation(18) 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.(19) Should you, however, disapprove of these types,(20) 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;”(22) thence am I led to believe the Apostle himself; thence do I find reason for rejecting your defence of him,(23) and for bearing fearlessly your taunt. “Then you deny the Apostle Paul.” I do not calumniate him whom I defend.(24) 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.(25) Either prove the truth of what you believe, or failing in your proof, (tell us) how you believe. Else what conduct is yours,(26) believing in opposition to Him from whom alone comes the proof of that which you believe? Take now from my point of view(27) 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,(1) that even an apostle who is said not to belong to the Creator-nay, is displayed as in actual hostility to the Creator—can be fairly regarded as teaching(2) nothing, knowing nothing, wishing nothing in favour of the Creator whilst it would be a first principle with him to set forth(3) 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(4) 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;(5) 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(6) the epistles also mutilated by him with like perverseness—and that even as respects their number.(7)
CHAP.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(8) 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.(9) Now, if the Creator indeed promised that “the ancient things should pass any,”(10) 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”(11)—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(12) 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,(13) 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,(14) 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,(15) 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,(16) 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 own belief must have spontaneously suggested to them. Therefore the entire purport of this epistle is simply to show us that the supersession(1) of the law comes from the appointment of the Creator—a point, which we shall still have to keep in mind.(2) 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”(3)—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(4) 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(5) 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,”(6) 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.”(7) 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”(8)—even proclaiming the gospel to the Gentiles, because He also says, “In His name shall the Gentiles trust;”(9) that is, in the name of Christ, to whom He says, “I have given thee as a light of the Gentiles.”(10) 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(11) two gods; and the apostle made a great mistake when he said that “there is not another” gospel,” since there is (on the hypothesis)(13) 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,”(14) 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.”(15) 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(16) 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,(17) in which book may be found the very subject(18) 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.”(19) 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(20) 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(1) the preaching of the apostles when he received from them the prescription(2) of not teaching the Law.(3)
CHAP. 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(4) of Peter and the rest of the apostles, he tells us s that “fourteen years after he went up to Jerusalem,” in order to confer with them(6) 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.(7) So great had been his desire to be approved and supported by those whom you wish on all occasions(8) to be understood as in alliance with Judaism! When indeed he says, that “neither was Titus circumcised,”(9) he for the first time shows us that circumcision was the only question connected with the maintenance(10) of the law, which had been as yet agitated by those whom he therefore calls “false brethren unawares brought in.”(11) 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(12) as should enable them to expunge(13) the Creator’s Christ, but by so retaining the ancient regime 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.”(14) Let us only attend to the clear(15) 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,”(16) etc., he gives us an insight into his reason(17) for acting in a clean contrary way,(18) 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(19) I want you to tell us whether they would have yielded to the subjection that was demanded,(20) 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.(21) For their rudimentary belief, which was still in suspense about the observance of the law, deserved this concessive treatment,(22) when even the apostle himself had some suspicion that he might have run, and be still running, in vain.(23) 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.(24) He therefore made some concession, as was necessary, for a time; and this was the reason why he had Timothy circumcised,(25) and the Nazarites introduced into the temple,(26) 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 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.”(1) 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.(2) Their agreement, also, “to remember the poor”(3) 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.(4) 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,”(5) which he varied according to the sort of persons (whom he associated with) “fearing them which were of the circumcision,”(6) 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:”(7) 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.”(8) 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(9) and hills and mountains may be filled up and levelled, and the crooked and the rough ways be made straight and smooth(10)—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;”(11) 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,”(12) in order that thenceforward man might be justified by the liberty of faith, not by servitude to the law,(13) “because the just shall live by his faith.”(14) 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(15) the Creator: “Behold,” says He, “I have set before you a blessing and a curse.”(16) 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,”(17) 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,”(18) 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 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,(1) 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.(2) 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,”(3) it becomes dear 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,”(4) 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;”(5) since, also, he deserved for that reason to be called “the father of many nations,” whilst we, who are even more like him(6) 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,(7) 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?(8) In short,(9) faith in one of two gods cannot possibly admit us to the dispensation(10) of the other,(11) 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(12)’ by the natural meaning.(13)
CHAP. IV.—ANOTHER INSTANCE OF MARCION’S TAMPERING WITH ST. PAUL’S TEXT. THE FULNESS 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.”(14) This, however, was not said “after the manner of men.” For there is no figure(15) 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(16) 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.”(17) 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.”(18) Fie on(19) 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.(20) “But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son”(21)—the God, of course, who is the Lord of that
very succession of times which 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.(1) “It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain (of the house) of the Lord shall be manifested”;(2) “and in the last days I will. pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh”(3) as Joel says. It was characteristic of Him (only)(4) 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,”(5) in other words, to “make the crooked ways straight, and the rough places smooth,” as Isaiah says(6)—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,”(7) and “that we might receive the adoption of sons,”(8) 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.”(9) 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.”(10) For “in the last days,” saith He,” I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.”(11) 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.”(12) 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,”(13) 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.(14) 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”(15)—the sabbaths, I suppose, and “the preparations,”(16) and the fasts, and the “high days.”(17) For the cessation of even these, no less than of cicumcision, 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;”(18) also by Amos, “I hate, I despise your feast-days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies;”(19) 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.”(20) 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.(21) “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”(22) (that is to say, they presaged something besides the literal history); “for these are the
two covenants,” or the two exhibitions (of the divine plans),(1) 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 l 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.”(2) 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,(3) as we have found, they were both sketched out beforehand. When he speaks of “the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,”(4) 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.(5) 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”(6)—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.’‘(7) 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;”(8) as Moses likewise had enjoined, “Circumcise your hard hearts”(9)—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 circumcisoin availeth anything, nor uncircumcision?(10) 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(11) 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?”(12)—of that faith “which,” he says “worketh by love.”(13) 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;” (14) and also the second in another passage: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”(15) “But he that troubleth you shall have to bear judgment.”(16) 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 neighhour as thyself.’ “(17) 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,(18) but the favour of a compendious acceptance;(19)
the gist of it all being concentrated in this one precept! But this condensation of 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,”(1) since this cannot be accomplished except a man love his neighhour 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,(2) God is not mocked.”(3) 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.”(4) It is then the God of recompense and judgment who threatens(5) this. “Let us not be weary in well-doing;”(6) and “as we have opportunity, let us do good.”(7) 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(8) and of life. But “in due time we shall reap;”(9) because in Ecclesiastes it is said, “For everything there will be a time.”(10) 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,”(11) 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.”(12) But when he adds, that “he bare in his body the scars(13) of Christ”— since scars, of course, are accidents of body(14)—he therefore expressed the truth, that the flesh of Christ is not putative, but real and substantial,(15) the scars of which he represents as borne upon his body.
CHAP. 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(16) on the preceding epistle called me away from treating of its superscription,(17) 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.”(18) 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(19) with the greeting of “peace,” and formerly in their Scriptures they did the same. But I understand him by his practice(20) 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!”(21) For the herald of good, that is, of God’s “grace” was well aware that along with it “peace” also was to be proclaimed.(22) Now, when he announces these blessings as “from God the Father and the Lord Jesus,”(23) 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.(25) 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,(1) and the whole race of mankind by their neglect of natural duty,(2) had both 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.”(3) And then, that we may known 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.’”(4) Now, since these are the Creator’s words, and since what pertains to the doctrine s 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(6) 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(7) 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?”(8) 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(9) by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”(10) But first a word about the expression “the world;” because in this passage particularly,(11) 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(12) 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,’‘(13) 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(14) and a judicial retribution. Since, then, the causes(15) 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,”(16) points unmistakeably(17) to the Creator’s prophecy respecting Him, when by Isaiah He says: “Behold I lay in Siona stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.”(18) This rock or stone is Christ.(19) This stumbling-stone Marcion retains still.(20)