Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Apologetic/An Answer to the Jews/Conclusion. Clue to the Error of the Jews

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Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III, Apologetic, An Answer to the Jews by Tertullian, translated by Sydney Thelwall
Conclusion. Clue to the Error of the Jews

Chapter XIV.—Conclusion. Clue to the Error of the Jews.

Learn now (over and above the immediate question) the clue to your error.  We affirm, two characters of the Christ demonstrated by the prophets, and as many advents of His forenoted:  one, in humility (of course the first), when He has to be led “as a sheep for a victim; and, as a lamb voiceless before the shearer, so He opened not His mouth,” not even in His aspect comely.  For “we have announced,” says the prophet, “concerning Him, (He is) as a little child, as a root in a thirsty land; and there was not in Him attractiveness or glory. And we saw Him, and He had not attractiveness or grace; but His mien was unhonoured, deficient in comparison of the sons of men,”[1] “a man set in the plague,[2] and knowing how to bear infirmity:” to wit as having been set by the Father “for a stone of offence,”[3] and “made a little lower” by Him “than angels,”[4] He pronounces Himself “a worm, and not a man, an ignominy of man, and the refuse of the People.”[5] Which evidences of ignobility suit the First Advent, just as those of sublimity do the Second; when He shall be made no longer “a stone of offence nor a rock of scandal,” but “the highest corner-stone,”[6] after reprobation (on earth) taken up (into heaven) and raised sublime for the purpose of consummation,[7] and that “rock”—so we must admit—which is read of in Daniel as forecut from a mount, which shall crush and crumble the image of secular kingdoms.[8] Of which second advent of the same (Christ) Daniel has said: “And, behold, as it were a Son of man, coming with the clouds of the heaven, came unto the Ancient of days, and was present in His sight; and they who were standing by led (Him) unto Him. And there was given Him royal power; and all nations of the earth, according to their race, and all glory, shall serve Him: and His power is eternal, which shall not be taken away, and His kingdom one which shall not be corrupted.”[9] Then, assuredly, is He to have an honourable mien, and a grace not “deficient more than the sons of men;” for (He will then be) “blooming in beauty in comparison with the sons of men.”[10] “Grace,” says the Psalmist, “hath been outpoured in Thy lips: wherefore God hath blessed Thee unto eternity. Gird Thee Thy sword around Thy thigh, most potent in Thy bloom and beauty!”[11] while the Father withal afterwards, after making Him somewhat lower than angels, “crowned Him with glory and honour and subjected all things beneath His feet.”[12] And then shall they “learn to know Him whom they pierced, and shall beat their breasts tribe by tribe;”[13] of course because in days bygone they did not know Him when conditioned in the humility of human estate. Jeremiah says: “He is a human being, and who will learn to know Him?”[14] because, “His nativity,” says Isaiah, “who shall declare?” So, too, in Zechariah, in His own person, nay, in the very mystery[15] of His name withal, the most true Priest of the Father, His own[16] Christ, is delineated in a twofold garb with reference to the two advents.[17] First, He was clad in “sordid attire,” that is, in the indignity of passible and mortal flesh, when the devil, withal, was opposing himself to Him—the instigator, to wit, of Judas the traitor[18]—who even after His baptism had tempted Him.  In the next place, He was stripped of His former sordid raiment, and adorned with a garment down to the foot, and with a turban and a clean mitre, that is, (with the garb) of the second advent; since He is demonstrated as having attained “glory and honour.” Nor will you be able to say that the man (there depicted) is “the son of Jozadak,”[19] who was never at all clad in a sordid garment, but was always adorned with the sacerdotal garment, nor ever deprived of the sacerdotal function. But the “Jesus”[20] there alluded to is Christ, the Priest of God the most high Father; who at His first advent came in humility, in human form, and passible, even up to the period of His passion; being Himself likewise made, through all (stages of suffering) a victim for us all; who after His resurrection was “clad with a garment down to the foot,”[21] and named the Priest of God the Father unto eternity.[22] So, again, I will make an interpretation of the two goats which were habitually offered on the fast-day.[23] Do not they, too, point to each successive stage in the character of the Christ who is already come? A pair, on the one hand, and consimilar (they were), because of the identity of the Lord’s general appearance, inasmuch as He is not to come in some other form, seeing that He has to be recognised by those by whom He was once hurt. But the one of them, begirt with scarlet, amid cursing and universal spitting, and tearing, and piercing, was cast away by the People outside the city into perdition, marked with manifest tokens of Christ’s passion; who, after being begirt with scarlet garment, and subjected to universal spitting, and afflicted with all contumelies, was crucified outside the city.[24] The other, however, offered for sins, and given as food to the priests merely of the temple,[25] gave signal evidences of the second appearance; in so far as, after the expiation of all sins, the priests of the spiritual temple, that is, of the church, were to enjoy[26] a spiritual public distribution (as it were) of the Lord’s grace, while all others are fasting from salvation.

Therefore, since the vaticinations of the first advent obscured it with manifold figures, and debased it with every dishonour, while the second (was foretold as) manifest and wholly worthy of God, it has resulted therefrom, that, by fixing their gaze on that one alone which they could easily understand and believe (that is, the second, which is in honour and glory), they have been (not undeservedly) deceived as to the more obscure—at all events, the more unworthy—that is, the first. And thus to the present moment they affirm that their Christ is not come, because He is not come in majesty; while they are ignorant of[27] the fact that He was first to come in humility.

Enough it is, meantime, to have thus far followed the stream downward of the order of Christ’s course, whereby He is proved such as He was habitually announced: in order that, as a result of this harmony of the Divine Scriptures, we may understand; and that the events which used to be predicted as destined to take place after Christ may be believed to have been accomplished as the result of a divine arrangement. For unless He come after whom they had to be accomplished, by no means would the events, the future occurrence whereof was predictively assigned to His advent, have come to pass.  Therefore, if you see universal nations thenceforth emerging from the profundity of human error to God the Creator and His Christ (which you dare not assert to have not been prophesied, because, albeit you were so to assert, there would forthwith—as we have already premised[28]—occur to you the promise of the Father saying, “My Son art Thou; I this day have begotten Thee; ask of Me, and I will give Thee Gentiles as Thine heritage, and as Thy possession the boundaries of the earth.”  Nor will you be able to vindicate, as the subject of that prediction, rather the son of David, Solomon, than Christ, God’s Son; nor “the boundaries of the earth,” as promised rather to David’s son, who reigned within the single land of Judea, than to Christ the Son of God, who has already illumined the whole world[29] with the rays of His gospel. In short, again, a throne “unto the age”[30] is more suitable to Christ, God’s Son, than to Solomon,—a temporal king, to wit, who reigned over Israel alone. For at the present day nations are invoking Christ which used not to know Him; and peoples at the present day are fleeing in a body to the Christ of whom in days bygone they were ignorant[31]), you cannot contend that is future which you see taking place.[32] Either deny that these events were prophesied, while they are seen before your eyes; or else have been fulfilled, while you hear them read: or, on the other hand, if you fail to deny each position, they will have their fulfilment in Him with respect to whom they were prophesied.


Footnotes[edit]

  1. See Isa. liii. 2 in LXX.
  2. See Ps. xxxviii. 17 in the “Great Bible” (xxxvii. 18 in LXX.). Also Isa. liii. 3 in LXX.
  3. See Isa. viii. 14 (where, however, the LXX. rendering is widely different) with Rom. ix. 32, 33; Ps. cxviii. 22 (cxvii. 22 in LXX.); 1 Pet. ii. 4.
  4. See Ps. viii. 5 (viii. 6 in LXX.) with Heb. ii. 5–9.
  5. See Ps. xxii. 6 (xxi. 7 in LXX., the Alex. ms. of which here agrees well with Tertullian).
  6. See reference 3 above, with Isa. xxviii. 16.
  7. Comp. Eph. i. 10.
  8. Or, “worldly kingdoms.” See Dan. ii. 34, 35, 44, 45.
  9. See Dan. vii. 13, 14.
  10. See c. ix. med.
  11. See c. ix. med.
  12. See Ps. viii. 5, 6 (6, 7 in LXX.); Heb. ii. 6–9.
  13. See Zech. xii. 10, 12 (where the LXX., as we have it, differs widely from our Eng. ver. in ver. 10); Rev. i. 7.
  14. See Jer. xvii. 9 in LXX.
  15. Sacramento.
  16. The reading which Oehler follows, and which seems to have the best authority, is “verissimus sacerdos Patris, Christus Ipsius,” as in the text.  But Rig., whose judgment is generally very sound, prefers, with some others, to read, “verus summus sacerdos Patris Christus Jesus;” which agrees better with the previous allusion to “the mystery of His name withal:” comp. c. ix. above, towards the end.
  17. See Zech. iii. “The mystery of His name” refers to the meaning of “Jeshua,” for which see c. ix. above.
  18. Comp. John vi. 70 and xiii. 2 (especially in Greek, where the word διάβολος is used in each case).
  19. Or “Josedech,” as Tertullian here writes, and as we find in Hag. i. 1, 12; ii. 2, 4; Zech. vi. 11, and in the LXX.
  20. Or, “Jeshua.”
  21. See Rev. i. 13.
  22. See Ps. cx. (cix. in LXX.) 4; Heb. v. 5–10.
  23. See Lev. xvi.
  24. Comp. Heb. xiii. 10–13. It is to be noted, however, that all this spitting, etc., formed no part of the divinely ordained ceremony.
  25. This appears to be an error. See Lev. vi. 30.
  26. Unless Oehler’s “fruerentur” is an error for “fruentur” ="will enjoy.”
  27. Or, “ignore.”
  28. See cc. xi. xii. above.
  29. Orbem.
  30. Or, “unto eternity.” Comp. 2 Sam. (2 Kings in LXX.) vii. 13; 1 Chron. xvii. 12; Ps. lxxxix. 3, 4, 29, 35, 36, 37 (in LXX. Ps. lxxxviii. 4, 5, 30, 36, 37, 38).
  31. See Isa. lv. 5 (especially in the LXX).
  32. Oehler’s pointing is discarded. The whole passage, from “which you dare not assert” down to “ignorant,” appears to be parenthetical; and I have therefore marked it as such.