Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Anti-Marcion/On the Flesh of Christ/XV

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Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III, Anti-Marcion, On the Flesh of Christ by Tertullian, translated by Peter Holmes

Chapter XV.—The Valentinian Figment of Christ’s Flesh Being of a Spiritual Nature, Examined and Refuted Out of Scripture.

Valentinus, indeed, on the strength of his heretical system, might consistently devise a spiritual flesh for Christ. Any one who refused to believe that that flesh was human might pretend it to be anything he liked, forasmuch as (and this remark is applicable to all heretics), if it was not human, and was not born of man, I do not see of what substance Christ Himself spoke when He called Himself man and the Son of man, saying: “But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth;”[1] and “The Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath-day.”[2] For it is of Him that Isaiah writes: “A man of suffering, and acquainted with the bearing of weakness;”[3] and Jeremiah: “He is a man, and who hath known Him?”[4] and Daniel: “Upon the clouds (He came) as the Son of man.”[5] The Apostle Paul likewise says: “The man Christ Jesus is the one Mediator between God and man.”[6] Also Peter, in the Acts of the Apostles, speaks of Him as verily human (when he says), “Jesus Christ was a man approved of God among you.”[7] These passages alone ought to suffice as a prescriptive[8] testimony in proof that Christ had human flesh derived from man, and not spiritual, and that His flesh was not composed of soul,[9] nor of stellar substance, and that it was not an imaginary flesh; (and no doubt they would be sufficient) if heretics could only divest themselves of all their contentious warmth and artifice. For, as I have read in some writer of Valentinus’ wretched faction,[10] they refuse at the outset to believe that a human and earthly substance was created[11] for Christ, lest the Lord should be regarded as inferior to the angels, who are not formed of earthly flesh; whence, too, it would be necessary that, if His flesh were like ours, it should be similarly born, not of the Spirit, nor of God, but of the will of man. Why, moreover, should it be born, not of corruptible [seed], but of incorruptible? Why, again, since His flesh has both risen and returned to heaven, is not ours, being like His, also taken up at once? Or else, why does not His flesh, since it is like ours, return in like manner to the ground, and suffer dissolution? Such objections even the heathen used constantly to bandy about.[12] Was the Son of God reduced to such a depth of degradation? Again, if He rose again as a precedent for our hope, how is it that nothing like it has been thought desirable (to happen) to ourselves?[13] Such views are not improper for heathens and they are fit and natural for the heretics too.  For, indeed, what difference is there between them, except it be that the heathen, in not believing, do believe; while the heretics, in believing, do not believe? Then, again, they read: “Thou madest Him a little less than angels;”[14] and they deny the lower nature of that Christ who declares Himself to be, “not a man, but a worm;”[15] who also had “no form nor comeliness, but His form was ignoble, despised more than all men, a man in suffering, and acquainted with the bearing of weakness.”[16] Here they discover a human being mingled with a divine one and so they deny the manhood.  They believe that He died, and maintain that a being which has died was born of an incorruptible substance;[17] as if, forsooth, corruptibility[18] were something else than death! But our flesh, too, ought immediately to have risen again. Wait a while.  Christ has not yet subdued His enemies, so as to be able to triumph over them in company with His friends.


  1. John viii. 40.
  2. Matt. xii. 8.
  3. Isa. liii. 3, Sept.
  4. Jer. xvii. 9, Sept.
  5. Dan. vii. 13.
  6. 1 Tim. ii. 5.
  7. Acts ii. 22.
  8. Vice præscriptionis.
  9. Animalis.
  10. Factiuncula.
  11. Informatam.
  12. Volutabant: see Lactantius, iv. 22.
  13. De nobis probatum est: or, perhaps, “has been proved to have happened in our own case.”
  14. Ps. viii. 6, Sept.
  15. Ps. xxii. 6.
  16. Isa. liii. 3, Sept.
  17. Ex incorruptela.
  18. Corruptela.