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ANF03. Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian
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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.”60036003    Eph. iii. 8, 9. 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.”60046004    The passage of St. Paul, as Tertullian expresses it, “Quæ dispensatio sacramenti occulti ab ævis in Deo, qui omnia condidit.” According to Marcion’s alteration, the latter part runs, “Occulti ab ævis Deo, qui omnia condidit.” The original is, Τίς ἡ οἰκονομία τοῦ μυστηρίου τοῦ ἀποκεκρυμμένου ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων ἐν τῷ Θεῷ (compare Col. iii. 3) τῷ τὰ πάντα κτίσαντι. Marcion’s removal of the ἐν has no warrant of ms. authority; it upsets St. Paul’s doctrine, as attested in other passages, and destroys the grammatical structure. The falsification, however, is flagrantly60056005    Emicat. 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.”60066006    Eph. iii. 10. 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 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 understood60076007    Debebat. 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?”60086008    Isa. xl. 13. 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,60096009    Marcion’s god, of course. 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.60106010    Eph. iv. 8 and Ps. lxviii. 19. 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,”60116011    Ps. xlv. 3. or by Isaiah as “taking away the spoils of Samaria and the power of Damascus,”60126012    Isa. viii. 4. you make Him out to be60136013    Extundis. really and truly a warrior confest to the eye.60146014    See above, book iii. chap. xiii. and xiv. p. 332. 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;”60156015    Eph. iv. 25. and again, using the very words in which the Psalm60166016    Ps. iv. 4. expresses his meaning, (he says,) “Be ye angry, and sin not;”60176017    Eph. iv. 26. “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”60186018    Eph. iv. 26. “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness;”60196019    Eph. v. 11. for (in the Psalm it is written,) “With the holy man thou shalt be holy, and with the perverse thou shalt be perverse;”60206020    Ps. xviii. 26. and, “Thou shalt put away evil from among you.”60216021    Deut. xxi. 21, quoted also in 1 Cor. v. 13. Again, “Go ye out from the midst of them; touch not the unclean thing; separate yourselves, ye that bear the vessels of the Lord.”60226022    Isa. lii. 11, quoted in 2 Cor. vi. 17. (The apostle says further:) “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess,”60236023    Eph. v. 18.—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.”60246024    Amos ii. 12. This prohibition from drink was given also to the high priest Aaron and his sons, “when they went into the holy place.”60256025    Lev. x. 9. The command, to “sing to the Lord with psalms and hymns,”60266026    Eph. v. 19. comes suitably from him who knew that those who “drank wine with drums and psalteries” were blamed by God.60276027    Isa. v. 11, 12. 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:”60286028    Eph. v. 22, 24. what reason does he give for this? “Because,” says he, “the husband is the head of the wife.”60296029    Eph. v. 23. 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;”60306030    Eph. v. 23. and again, in like manner: “He who loveth his wife, loveth his own flesh, even as Christ loved the Church.”60316031    Eph. v. 25, 28. 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.”60326032    Eph. v. 29. 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.60336033    Proinde. 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,60346034    Ego. to prove that the same God is (the God) of the man60356035    Masculi. 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.”60366036    Eph. v. 31, 32. In passing,60376037    Inter ista. (I would say that) it is enough for me that the works of the Creator are great mysteries60386038    Magna sacramenta. 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.”60396039    Eph. v. 32. 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.”60406040    Eph. vi. 1. Now, although Marcion has erased (the next clause), “which is the first commandment with promise,”60416041    Eph. vi. 2. “He did this (says Lardner) in order that the Mosaic law might not be thought to be thus established.” still the law says plainly, “Honour thy father and thy mother.”60426042    Ex. xx. 12. Again, (the apostle writes:) “Parents, bring up your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.”60436043    Eph. vi. 4. 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.”60446044    Ex. x. 2. 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,”60456045    Eph. vi. 12. what a host of Creator Gods there must be!60466046    An ironical allusion to Marcion’s interpretation, which he has considered in a former chapter, of the title God of this world. 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,”60476047    Eph. vi. 11. 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,”60486048    Eph. vi. 12. 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?60496049    Apud Creatorem. 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 perversion60506050    Ex qua delatura. 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,60516051    Illius arbusculæ. from any apprehension that they would become gods; His prohibition was meant to prevent their dying after the transgression.  But “the spiritual wickedness”60526052    Spiritalia nequitiæ: “wicked spirits.” did not signify the Creator, because of the apostle’s additional description, “in heavenly places;”60536053    Eph. vi. 12. 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.60546054    Gen. vi. 1–4. See also Tertullian, De Idol. 9; De Habit. Mul. 2; De Cultu Femin. 10; De Vel. Virg. 7; Apolog. 22. See also Augustin, De Civit. Dei. xv. 23. But how happened it that (the apostle) resorted to ambiguous descriptions, and I know not what obscure enigmas, for the purpose of disparaging60556055    Ut taxaret. Of course he alludes to Marcion’s absurd exposition of the 12th verse, in applying St. Paul’s description of wicked spirits to the Creator. 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?60566056    Eph. vi. 19, 20.


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