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ANF03. Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian
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Chapter XII.—Christ’s Authority Over the Sabbath. As Its Lord He Recalled It from Pharisaic Neglect to the Original Purpose of Its Institution by the Creator the Case of the Disciples Who Plucked the Ears of Corn on the Sabbath. The Withered Hand Healed on the Sabbath.

Concerning the Sabbath also I have this to premise, that this question could not have arisen, if Christ did not publicly proclaim38533853    Circumferret. the Lord of the Sabbath. Nor could there be any discussion about His annulling38543854    Cur destrueret. the Sabbath, if He had a right38553855    Deberet. to annul it. Moreover, He would have the right, if He belonged to the rival god; nor would it cause surprise to any one that He did what it was right for Him to do.  Men’s astonishment therefore arose from their opinion that it was improper for Him to proclaim the Creator to be God and yet to impugn His Sabbath. Now, that we may decide these several points first, lest we should be renewing them at every turn to meet each argument of our adversary which rests on some novel institution38563856    Institutione: or, teaching, perhaps. of Christ, let this stand as a settled point, that discussion concerning the novel character of each institution ensued on this account, because as nothing was as yet advanced by Christ touching any new deity, so discussion thereon was inadmissible; nor could it be retorted, that from the very novelty of each several institution another deity was clearly enough demonstrated by Christ, inasmuch as it was plain that novelty was not in itself a characteristic to be wondered at in Christ, because it had been foretold by the Creator. And it would have been, of course, but right that a new38573857    Alium. god should first be expounded, and his discipline be introduced afterwards; because it would be the god that would impart authority to the discipline, and not the discipline to the god; except that (to be sure) it has happened that Marcion acquired his very perverse opinions not from a master, but his master from his opinion! All other points respecting the Sabbath I thus rule. If Christ interfered with38583858    Intervertit. the Sabbath, He simply acted after the Creator’s example; inasmuch as in the siege of the city of Jericho the carrying around the walls of the ark of the covenant for eight days running, and therefore on a Sabbath-day, actually38593859    Operatione. annulled the Sabbath, by the Creator’s command—according to the opinion of those who think this of Christ in this passage of St. Luke, in their ignorance that neither Christ nor the Creator violated the Sabbath, as we shall by and by show. And yet the Sabbath was actually then broken38603860    Concussum est sabbatum. by Joshua,38613861    Per Jesum. so that the present charge might be alleged also against Christ. But even if, as being not the Christ of the Jews, He displayed a hatred against the Jews’ most solemn day, He was only professedly following38623862    Professus…sequebatur. the Creator, as being His Christ, in this very hatred of the Sabbath; for He exclaims by the mouth of Isaiah: “Your new moons and your Sabbaths my soul hateth.”38633863    Isa. i. 14. Now, in whatever sense these words were spoken, we know that an abrupt defence must, in a subject of this sort, be used in answer to an abrupt challenge. I shall now transfer the discussion to the very matter in which the teaching of Christ seemed to annul the Sabbath. The disciples had been hungry; on that the Sabbath day they had plucked some ears and rubbed them in their hands; by thus preparing their food, they had violated the holy day. Christ excuses them, and became their accomplice in breaking the Sabbath. The Pharisees bring the charge against Him.  Marcion sophistically interprets the stages of the controversy (if I may call in the aid of the truth of my Lord to ridicule his arts), both in the scriptural record and in Christ’s purpose.38643864    This obscure passage runs thus in the original: “Marcion captat status controversiæ (ut aliquid ludam cum mei Domini veritate), scripti et voluntatis.” Status is a technical word in rhetoric. “Est quæstio quæ ex prima causarum conflictione nascitur.” See Cicero, Topic. c. 25, Part. c. 29; and Quinctilian, Instit. Rhetor. iii. 6. (Oehler). For from the Creator’s Scripture, and from the purpose of Christ, there is derived a colourable precedent38653865    Sumitur color.—as from the example of David, when he went into the temple on the Sabbath, and provided food by boldly breaking up the shew-bread.38663866    Luke vi. 1–4; 1 Sam. xxi. 2–6. Even he remembered that this privilege (I mean the dispensation from fasting) was allowed to the Sabbath from the very beginning, when the Sabbath-day itself was instituted. For although the Creator had forbidden that the manna should be gathered for two days, He yet permitted it on the one occasion only of the day before the Sabbath, in order that the yesterday’s provision of food might free from fasting the feast of the following Sabbath-day. Good reason, therefore, had the Lord for pursuing the same principle in the annulling of the Sabbath (since that is the word which men will use); good reason, too, for expressing the Creator’s will,38673867    Affectum. when He bestowed the privilege of not fasting on the Sabbath-day. In short, He would have then and there38683868    Tunc demum. put an end to the Sabbath, nay, to the Creator Himself, if He had commanded His disciples to fast on the Sabbath-day, contrary to the intention38693869    Statum. of the Scripture and of the Creator’s will.  But because He did not directly defend38703870    Non constanter tuebatur. His disciples, but excuses them; because He interposes human want, as if deprecating censure; because He maintains the honour of the Sabbath as a day which is to be free from gloom rather than from work;38713871    Non contristandi quam vacandi. because he puts David and his companions on a level with His own disciples in their fault and their extenuation; because He is pleased to endorse38723872    [This adoption of an Americanism is worthy of passing notice.] the Creator’s indulgence:38733873    Placet illi quia Creator indulsit. because He is Himself good according to His example—is He therefore alien from the Creator? Then the Pharisees watch whether He would heal on the Sabbath-day,38743874    Luke vi. 7. that they might accuse Him—surely as a violator of the Sabbath, not as the propounder of a new god; for perhaps I might be content with insisting on all occasions on this one point, that another Christ38753875    That is, the Christ of another God. is nowhere proclaimed. The Pharisees, however, were in utter error concerning the law of the Sabbath, not observing that its terms were conditional, when it enjoined rest from labour, making certain distinctions of labour. For when it says of the Sabbath-day, “In it thou shalt not do any work of thine,”38763876    Ex. xx. 16. by the word thine38773877    It is impossible to say where Tertullian got this reading.  Perhaps his LXX. copy might have had (in Ex. xx. 10): Οὐ ποιήσεις ἐν αὐτῇ πᾶν ἔργον σου, instead of συ; every clause ending in σου, which follows in that verse.  No critical authority, however, now known warrants such a reading. [It is probably based inferentially on verse 9, “all thy work.”] it restricts the prohibition to human work—which every one performs in his own employment or business—and not to divine work.  Now the work of healing or preserving is not proper to man, but to God. So again, in the law it says, “Thou shalt not do any manner of work in it,”38783878    Ex. xii. 16. except what is to be done for any soul,38793879    The LXX. of the latter clause of Ex. xii. 16 thus runs: πλὴν ὅσα ποιηθήσεται πάσῃ ψυχῇ. Tertullian probably got this reading from this clause, although the Hebrew is to this effect:  “Save that which every man (or, every soul) must eat,” which the Vulgate renders:  “Exceptis his, quæ ad vescendum pertinent.” that is to say, in the matter of delivering the soul;38803880    Liberandæ animæ: perhaps saving life. because what is God’s work may be done by human agency for the salvation of the soul. By God, however, would that be done which the man Christ was to do, for He was likewise God.38813881    In salutem animæ: or, for saving life. Wishing, therefore, to initiate them into this meaning of the law by the restoration of the withered hand, He requires, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath-days to do good, or not? to save life, or to destroy it?”38823882    Luke vi. 9. In order that He might, whilst allowing that amount of work which He was about to perform for a soul,38833883    Pro anima: or, for a life. remind them what works the law of the Sabbath forbade—even human works; and what it enjoined—even divine works, which might be done for the benefit of any soul,38843884    Animæ omni: or, any life. He was called “Lord of the Sabbath,”38853885    Luke vi. 5. because He maintained38863886    Tuebatur. the Sabbath as His own institution. Now, even if He had annulled the Sabbath, He would have had the right to do so,38873887    Merito. as being its Lord, (and) still more as He who instituted it. But He did not utterly destroy it, although its Lord, in order that it might henceforth be plain that the Sabbath was not broken38883888    Destructum. We have, as has been most convenient, rendered this word by annul, destroy, break. by the Creator, even at the time when the ark was carried around Jericho. For that was really38893889    Et. God’s work, which He commanded Himself, and which He had ordered for the sake of the lives of His servants when exposed to the perils of war. Now, although He has in a certain place expressed an aversion of Sabbaths, by calling them your Sabbaths,38903890    Isa. i. 13, 14. reckoning them as men’s Sabbaths, not His own, because they were celebrated without the fear of God by a people full of iniquities, and loving God “with the lip, not the heart,”38913891    Isa. xxix. 13. He has yet put His own Sabbaths (those, that is, which were kept according to His prescription) in a different position; for by the same prophet, in a later passage,38923892    Isa. lviii. 13 and lvi. 2. He declared them to be “true, and delightful, and inviolable.” Thus Christ did not at all rescind the Sabbath: He kept the law thereof, and both in the former case did a work which was beneficial to the life of His disciples, for He indulged them with the relief of food when they were hungry, and in the present instance cured the withered hand; in each case intimating by facts, “I came not to destroy, the law, but to fulfil it,”38933893    Matt. v. 17. although Marcion has gagged38943894    Obstruxit. His mouth by this word.38953895    “Destroy”…It was hardly necessary for Oehler to paraphrase our author’s characteristically strong sentence by, “since Marcion thought that he had gagged,” etc. For even in the case before us He fulfilled the law, while interpreting its condition; moreover, He exhibits in a clear light the different kinds of work, while doing what the law excepts from the sacredness of the Sabbath38963896    In other words, “permits to be done on the Sabbath.” and while imparting to the Sabbath-day itself, which from the beginning had been consecrated by the benediction of the Father, an additional sanctity by His own beneficent action. For He furnished to this day divine safeguards,38973897    Præsidia.—a course which38983898    Quod, not quæ, as if in apposition with præsidia. His adversary would have pursued for some other days, to avoid honouring the Creator’s Sabbath, and restoring to the Sabbath the works which were proper for it. Since, in like manner, the prophet Elisha on this day restored to life the dead son of the Shunammite woman,38993899    See 2 Kings iv. 23. you see, O Pharisee, and you too, O Marcion, how that it was proper employment for the Creator’s Sabbaths of old39003900    Olim. to do good, to save life, not to destroy it; how that Christ introduced nothing new, which was not after the example,39013901    Forma. the gentleness, the mercy, and the prediction also of the Creator. For in this very example He fulfils39023902    Repræsentat. the prophetic announcement of a specific healing: “The weak hands are strengthened,” as were also “the feeble knees”39033903    Isa. xxxv. 3. in the sick of the palsy.


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