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

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Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III, Anti-Marcion, The Five Books Against Marcion, Book III
by Tertullian, translated by Peter Holmes
155286Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III, Anti-Marcion, The Five Books Against Marcion, Book III — IXPeter HolmesTertullian

Chapter IX.—Refutation of Marcion’s Objections Derived from the Cases of the Angels, and the Pre-Incarnate Manifestations of the Son of God.

Now, in this discussion of yours,[1] when you suppose that we are to be met with the case of the Creator’s angels, as if they held intercourse with Abraham and Lot in a phantom state, that of merely putative flesh,[2] and yet did truly converse, and eat, and work, as they had been commissioned to do, you will not, to begin with, be permitted to use as examples the acts of that God whom you are destroying. For by how much you make your god a better and more perfect being, by just so much will all examples be unsuitable to him of that God from whom he totally differs, and without which difference he would not be at all better or more perfect. But then, secondly, you must know that it will not be conceded to you, that in the angels there was only a putative flesh, but one of a true and solid human substance. For if (on your terms) it was no difficulty to him to manifest true sensations and actions in a putative flesh, it was much more easy for him still to have assigned the true substance of flesh to these true sensations and actions, as the proper maker and former thereof. But your god, perhaps on the ground of his having produced no flesh at all, was quite right in introducing the mere phantom of that of which he had been unable to produce the reality. My God, however, who formed that which He had taken out of the dust of the ground in the true quality of flesh, although not issuing as yet from conjugal seed, was equally able to apply to angels too a flesh of any material whatsoever, who built even the world out of nothing, into so many and so various bodies, and that at a word! And, really, if your god promises to men some time or other the true nature of angels[3] (for he says, “They shall be like the angels”), why should not my God also have fitted on to angels the true substance of men, from whatever source derived? For not even you will tell me, in reply, whence is obtained that angelic nature on your side; so that it is enough for me to define this as being fit and proper to God, even the verity of that thing which was objective to three senses—sight, touch, and hearing. It is more difficult for God to practise deception[4] than to produce real flesh from any material whatever, even without the means of birth. But for other heretics, also, who maintain that the flesh in the angels ought to have been born of flesh, if it had been really human, we have an answer on a sure principle, to the effect that it was truly human flesh, and yet not born. It was truly human, because of the truthfulness of God, who can neither lie nor deceive, and because (angelic beings) cannot be dealt with by men in a human way except in human substance: it was withal unborn, because none[5] but Christ could become incarnate by being born of the flesh in order that by His own nativity He might regenerate[6] our birth, and might further by His death also dissolve our death, by rising again in that flesh in which, that He might even die, He was born. Therefore on that occasion He did Himself appear with the angels to Abraham in the verity of the flesh, which had not as yet undergone birth, because it was not yet going to die, although it was even now learning to hold intercourse amongst men.  Still greater was the propriety in angels, who never received a dispensation to die for us, not having assumed even a brief experience[7] of flesh by being born, because they were not destined to lay it down again by dying; but, from whatever quarter they obtained it, and by what means soever they afterwards entirely divested themselves of it, they yet never pretended it to be unreal flesh. Since the Creator “maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire”—as truly spirits as also fire—so has He truly made them flesh likewise; wherefore we can now recall to our own minds, and remind the heretics also, that He has promised that He will one day form men into angels, who once formed angels into men.


  1. Ista. [See Kaye, p. 205.]
  2. [Pamelius attributes this doctrine to Appelles a disciple of Marcion, of whom see Kaye, pp. 479, 480.]
  3. Luke xx. 36.
  4. Mentiri.
  5. i.e., among the angels.
  6. Reformaret.
  7. Commeatum.