Friday, December 6, 2013

When Church Fathers Drop the Mic, Or Tertullian vs. Marcion


It was very meet that the man who buried the Lord should thus be noticed in prophecy, and thenceforth be “blessed;” since prophecy does not omit the (pious) office of the women who resorted before day-break to the sepulchre with the spices which they had prepared. Luke 24:1 For of this incident it is said by Hosea: “To seek my face they will watch till day-light, saying unto me, Come, and let us return to the Lord: for He has taken away, and He will heal us; He has smitten, and He will bind us up; after two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up.” For who can refuse to believe that these words often revolved in the thought of those women between the sorrow of that desertion with which at present they seemed to themselves to have been smitten by the Lord, and the hope of the resurrection itself, by which they rightly supposed that all would be restored to them? But when “they found not the body (of the Lord Jesus),” Luke 24:3 “His sepulture was removed from the midst of them,” according to the prophecy of Isaiah. “Two angels however, appeared there.” Luke 24:4 For just so many honorary companions were required by the word of God, which usually prescribes “ two witnesses.” Moreover, the women, returning from the sepulchre, and from this vision of the angels, were foreseen by Isaiah, when he says, “Come, you women, who return from the vision;” that is, “come,” to report the resurrection of the Lord. It was well, however, that the unbelief of the disciples was so persistent, in order that to the last we might consistently maintain that Jesus revealed Himself to the disciples as none other than the Christ of the prophets. For as two of them were taking a walk, and when the Lord had joined their company, without its appearing that it was He, and while He dissembled His knowledge of what had just taken place, Luke 24:13-19 they say: “But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel,” Luke 24:21 — meaning their own, that is, the Creator's Christ. So far had He been from declaring Himself to them as another Christ! They could not, however, deem Him to be the Christ of the Creator; nor, if He was so deemed by them, could He have tolerated this opinion concerning Himself, unless He were really He whom He was supposed to be. Otherwise He would actually be the author of error, and the prevaricator of truth, contrary to the character of the good God. But at no time even after His resurrection did He reveal Himself to them as any other than what, on their own showing, they had always thought Him to be. He pointedly reproached them: “O fools, and slow of heart in not believing that which He spoke unto you.” Luke 24:25 By saying this, He proves that He does not belong to the rival god, but to the same God. For the same thing was said by the angels to the women: “Remember how He spoke unto you when He was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered up, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Luke 24:6-7 “ Must be delivered up;” and why, except that it was so written by God the Creator? He therefore upbraided them, because they were offended solely at His passion, and because they doubted of the truth of the resurrection which had been reported to them by the women, whereby (they showed that) they had not believed Him to have been the very same as they had thought Him to be. Wishing, therefore, to be believed by them in this wise, He declared Himself to be just what they had deemed Him to be— the Creator's Christ, the Redeemer of Israel. But as touching the reality of His body, what can be plainer? When they were doubting whether He were not a phantom— nay, were supposing that He was one— He says to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; for a spirit has not bones, as you see me have.” Luke 24:37-39.
Now Marcion was unwilling to expunge from his Gospel some statements which even made against him— I suspect, on purpose, to have it in his power from the passages which he did not suppress, when he could have done so, either to deny that he had expunged anything, or else to justify his suppressions, if he made any. But he spares only such passages as he can subvert quite as well by explaining them away as by expunging them from the text. Thus, in the passage before us, he would have the words, “A spirit has not bones, as you see me have,” so transposed, as to mean, “A spirit, such as you see me to be, has not bones;” that is to say, it is not the nature of a spirit to have bones. But what need of so tortuous a construction, when He might have simply said, “A spirit has not bones, even as you observe that I have not?” Why, moreover, does He offer His hands and His feet for their examination— limbs which consist of bones— if He had no bones? Why, too, does He add, “Know that it is I myself,” Luke 24:39 when they had before known Him to be corporeal? Else, if He were altogether a phantom, why did He upbraid them for supposing Him to be a phantom? But while they still believed not, He asked them for some meat, Luke 24:41 for the express purpose of showing them that He had teeth.
And now, as I would venture to believe, we have accomplished our undertaking. We have set forth Jesus Christ as none other than the Christ of the Creator. Our proofs we have drawn from His doctrines, maxims, affections, feelings, miracles, sufferings, and even resurrection— as foretold by the prophets. Even to the last He taught us (the same truth of His mission), when He sent forth His apostles to preach His gospel “among all nations;” for He thus fulfilled the psalm: “Their sound is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”
Marcion, I pity you; your labour has been in vain. For the Jesus Christ who appears in your Gospel is mine.
Against Marcion, Book IV, CH43.

--Nick

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