Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Anti-Marcion/On the Flesh of Christ/IX
Chapter IX.—Christ’s Flesh Perfectly Natural, Like Our Own. None of the Supernatural Features Which the Heretics Ascribed to It Discoverable, on a Careful View.
We have thus far gone on the principle, that nothing which is derived from some other thing, however different it may be from that from which it is derived, is so different as not to suggest the source from which it comes. No material substance is without the witness of its own original, however great a change into new properties it may have undergone. There is this very body of ours, the formation of which out of the dust of the ground is a truth which has found its way into Gentile fables; it certainly testifies its own origin from the two elements of earth and water,—from the former by its flesh, from the latter by its blood. Now, although there is a difference in the appearance of qualities (in other words, that which proceeds from something else is in development different), yet, after all, what is blood but red fluid? what is flesh but earth in an especial form? Consider the respective qualities,—of the muscles as clods; of the bones as stones; the mammillary glands as a kind of pebbles. Look upon the close junctions of the nerves as propagations of roots, and the branching courses of the veins as winding rivulets, and the down (which covers us) as moss, and the hair as grass, and the very treasures of marrow within our bones as ores of flesh. All these marks of the earthy origin were in Christ; and it is they which obscured Him as the Son of God, for He was looked on as man, for no other reason whatever than because He existed in the corporeal substance of a man. Or else, show us some celestial substance in Him purloined from the Bear, and the Pleiades, and the Hyades. Well, then, the characteristics which we have enumerated are so many proofs that His was an earthy flesh, as ours is; but anything new or anything strange I do not discover. Indeed it was from His words and actions only, from His teaching and miracles solely, that men, though amazed, owned Christ to be man. But if there had been in Him any new kind of flesh miraculously obtained (from the stars), it would have been certainly well known. As the case stood, however, it was actually the ordinary condition of His terrene flesh which made all things else about Him wonderful, as when they said, “Whence hath this man this wisdom and these mighty works?” Thus spake even they who despised His outward form. His body did not reach even to human beauty, to say nothing of heavenly glory. Had the prophets given us no information whatever concerning His ignoble appearance, His very sufferings and the very contumely He endured bespeak it all. The sufferings attested His human flesh, the contumely proved its abject condition. Would any man have dared to touch even with his little finger, the body of Christ, if it had been of an unusual nature; or to smear His face with spitting, if it had not invited it (by its abjectness)? Why talk of a heavenly flesh, when you have no grounds to offer us for your celestial theory? Why deny it to be earthy, when you have the best of reasons for knowing it to be earthy? He hungered under the devil’s temptation; He thirsted with the woman of Samaria; He wept over Lazarus; He trembles at death (for “the flesh,” as He says, “is weak”); at last, He pours out His blood. These, I suppose, are celestial marks? But how, I ask, could He have incurred contempt and suffering in the way I have described, if there had beamed forth in that flesh of His aught of celestial excellence? From this, therefore, we have a convincing proof that in it there was nothing of heaven, because it must be capable of contempt and suffering.