Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Anti-Marcion/The Five Books Against Marcion/Book II/XXIX

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Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III, Anti-Marcion, The Five Books Against Marcion, Book II
by Tertullian, translated by Peter Holmes
155276Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III, Anti-Marcion, The Five Books Against Marcion, Book II — XXIXPeter HolmesTertullian

Chapter XXIX.—Marcion’s Own Antitheses, If Only the Title and Object of the Work Be Excepted, Afford Proofs of the Consistent Attributes of the True God.

But I would have attacked Marcion’s own Antitheses in closer and fuller combat, if a more elaborate demolition of them were required in maintaining for the Creator the character of a good God and a Judge, after[1] the examples of both points, which we have shown to be so worthy of God. Since, however, these two attributes of goodness and justice do together make up the proper fulness of the Divine Being as omnipotent, I am able to content myself with having now compendiously refuted his Antitheses, which aim at drawing distinctions out of the qualities of the (Creator’s) artifices,[2] or of His laws, or of His great works; and thus sundering Christ from the Creator, as the most Good from the Judge, as One who is merciful from Him who is ruthless, and One who brings salvation from Him who causes ruin. The truth is,[3] they[4] rather unite the two Beings whom they arrange in those diversities (of attribute), which yet are compatible in God.  For only take away the title of Marcion’s book,[5] and the intention and purpose of the work itself, and you could get no better demonstration that the self-same God was both very good and a Judge, inasmuch as these two characters are only competently found in God. Indeed, the very effort which is made in the selected examples to oppose Christ to the Creator, conduces all the more to their union. For so entirely one and the same was the nature of the Divine Beings, the good and the severe, as shown both by the same examples and in similar proofs, that It willed to display Its goodness to those on whom It had first inflicted Its severity. The difference in time was no matter of surprise, when the same God was afterwards merciful in presence of evils which had been subdued,[6] who had once been so austere whilst they were as yet unsubdued. Thus, by help of the Antitheses, the dispensation of the Creator can be more readily shown to have been reformed by Christ, rather than destroyed;[7] restored, rather than abolished;[8] especially as you sever your own god from everything like acrimonious conduct,[9] even from all rivalry whatsoever with the Creator. Now, since this is the case, how comes it to pass that the Antitheses demonstrate Him to have been the Creator’s rival in every disputed cause?[10] Well, even here, too, I will allow that in these causes my God has been a jealous God, who has in His own right taken especial care that all things done by Him should be in their beginning of a robuster growth;[11] and this in the way of a good, because rational[12] emulation, which tends to maturity. In this sense the world itself will acknowledge His “antitheses,” from the contrariety of its own elements, although it has been regulated with the very highest reason.[13] Wherefore, most thoughtless Marcion, it was your duty to have shown that one (of the two Gods you teach) was a God of light, and the other a God of darkness; and then you would have found it an easier task to persuade us that one was a God of goodness, the other a God of severity. How ever, the “antithesis” (or variety of administration) will rightly be His property, to whom it actually belongs in (the government of) the world.


  1. Secundum.
  2. Ingeniorum.
  3. Enim.
  4. i.e., Marcion’s Antitheses.
  5. Antitheses so called because Marcion in it had set passages out of the O.T. and the N.T. in opposition to each other, intending his readers to infer from the apparent disagreement that the law and the gospel were not from the same author (Bp. Kaye on Tertullian, p. 468).
  6. Pro rebus edomitis. See chap. xv. and xix., where he refers to the law as the subduing instrument.
  7. Repercussus: perhaps “refuted.”
  8. Exclusus.
  9. Ab omni motu amariore.
  10. Singulas species, a law term.
  11. Arbustiores. A figurative word, taken from vines more firmly supported on trees instead of on frames.  He has used the word indomitis above to express his meaning.
  12. Rationali. Compare chap. vi. of this book, where the “ratio,” or purpose of God, is shown to be consistent with His goodness in providing for its highest development in man’s interest.
  13. Ratione: in reference to God’s ratio or purpose in creation. See chap. vi. note 10. [p. 301, supra.]