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

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Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III, Anti-Marcion, The Five Books Against Marcion, Book III
by Tertullian, translated by Peter Holmes
155283Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III, Anti-Marcion, The Five Books Against Marcion, Book III — VIPeter HolmesTertullian

Chapter VI.—Community in Certain Points of Marcionite and Jewish Error. Prophecies of Christ’s Rejection Examined.

Since, therefore, there clearly exist these two characteristics in the Jewish prophetic literature, let the reader remember,[1] whenever we adduce any evidence therefrom, that, by mutual consent,[2] the point of discussion is not the form of the scripture, but the subject it is called in to prove. When, therefore, our heretics in their phrenzy presumed to say that that Christ was come who had never been fore-announced, it followed that, on their assumption, that Christ had not yet appeared who had always been predicted; and thus they are obliged to make common cause with[3] Jewish error, and construct their arguments with its assistance, on the pretence that the Jews were themselves quite certain that it was some other who came: so they not only rejected Him as a stranger, but slew Him as an enemy, although they would without doubt have acknowledged Him, and with all religious devotion followed Him, if He had only been one of themselves. Our shipmaster[4] of course got his craft-wisdom not from the Rhodian law,[5] but from the Pontic,[6] which cautioned him against believing that the Jews had no right to sin against their Christ; whereas (even if nothing like their conduct had been predicted against them) human nature alone, liable to error as it is, might well have induced him to suppose that it was quite possible for the Jews to have committed such a sin, considered as men, without assuming any unfair prejudice regarding their feelings, whose sin was antecedently so credible. Since, however, it was actually foretold that they would not acknowledge Christ, and therefore would even put Him to death, it will therefore follow that He was both ignored[7] and slain by them, who were beforehand pointed out as being about to commit such offences against Him. If you require a proof of this, instead of turning out those passages of Scripture which, while they declare Christ to be capable of suffering death, do thereby also affirm the possibility of His being rejected (for if He had not been rejected, He could not really suffer anything), but rather reserving them for the subject of His sufferings, I shall content myself at the present moment with adducing those which simply show that there was a probability of Christ’s rejection. This is quickly done, since the passages indicate that the entire power of understanding was by the Creator taken from the people. “I will take away,” says He, “the wisdom of their wise men; and the understanding of their prudent men will I hide;”[8] and again: “With your ear ye shall hear, and not understand; and with your eyes ye shall see, but not perceive: for the heart of this people hath growth fat, and with their ears they hear heavily, and their eyes have they shut; lest they hear with their ears, and see with their eyes, and understand with the heart, and be converted, and I heal them.”[9] Now this blunting of their sound senses they had brought on themselves, loving God with their lips, but keeping far away from Him in their heart. Since, then, Christ was announced by the Creator, “who formeth the lightning, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man His Christ,” as the prophet Joel says,[10] since the entire hope of the Jews, not to say of the Gentiles too, was fixed on the manifestation of Christ,—it was demonstrated that they, by their being deprived of those powers of knowledge and understanding—wisdom and prudence, would fail to know and understand that which was predicted, even Christ; when the chief of their wise men should be in error respecting Him—that is to say, their scribes and prudent ones, or Pharisees; and when the people, like them, should hear with their ears and not understand Christ while teaching them, and see with their eyes and not perceive Christ, although giving them signs. Similarly it is said elsewhere: “Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, but he who ruleth over them?”[11] Also when He upbraids them by the same Isaiah: “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.  The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know; my people doth not consider.”[12] We indeed, who know for certain that Christ always spoke in the prophets, as the Spirit of the Creator (for so says the prophet: “The person of our Spirit, Christ the Lord,”[13] who from the beginning was both heard and seen as the Father’s vicegerent in the name of God), are well aware that His words, when actually upbraiding Israel, were the same as those which it was foretold that He should denounce against him: “Ye have forsaken the Lord, and have provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger.”[14] If, however, you would rather refer to God Himself, instead of to Christ, the whole imputation of Jewish ignorance from the first, through an unwillingness to allow that even anciently[15] the Creator’s word and Spirit—that is to say, His Christ—was despised and not acknowledged by them, you will even in this subterfuge be defeated. For when you do not deny that the Creator’s Son and Spirit and Substance is also His Christ, you must needs allow that those who have not acknowledged the Father have failed likewise to acknowledge the Son through the identity of their natural substance;[16] for if in Its fulness It has baffled man’s understanding, much more has a portion of It, especially when partaking of the fulness.[17] Now, when these things are carefully considered, it becomes evident how the Jews both rejected Christ and slew Him; not because they regarded Him as a strange Christ, but because they did not acknowledge Him, although their own. For how could they have understood the strange One, concerning whom nothing had ever been announced, when they failed to understand Him about whom there had been a perpetual course of prophecy? That admits of being understood or being not understood, which, by possessing a substantial basis for prophecy,[18] will also have a subject-matter[19] for either knowledge or error; whilst that which lacks such matter admits not the issue of wisdom. So that it was not as if He belonged to another[20] god that they conceived an aversion for Christ, and persecuted Him, but simply as a man whom they regarded as a wonder-working juggler,[21] and an enemy[22] in His doctrines. They brought Him therefore to trial as a mere man, and one of themselves too—that is, a Jew (only a renegade and a destroyer of Judaism)—and punished Him according to their law. If He had been a stranger, indeed, they would not have sat in judgment over Him. So far are they from appearing to have understood Him to be a strange Christ, that they did not even judge Him to be a stranger to their own human nature.[23]


  1. “Remember, O reader.”
  2. Constitisse.
  3. Sociari cum.
  4. Marcion.
  5. The model of wise naval legislation, much of which found its way into the Roman pandects.
  6. Symbol of barbarism and ignorance—a heavy joke against the once seafaring heretic.
  7. Ignoratus, “rejected of men.”
  8. Isa. xxix. 14.
  9. Isa. vi. 9, 10. Quoted with some verbal differences.
  10. A supposed quotation of Amos iv. 13. See Oehler’s marginal reference. If so, the reference to Joel is either a slip of Tertullian or a corruption of his text; more likely the former, for the best mss. insert Joel’s name. Amos iv. 13, according to the LXX., runs, ᾽Απαγγέλλων εἰς ἀνθρώπους τὸν Χριστὸν αὐτοῦ, which exactly suits Tertullian’s quotation. Junius supports the reference to Joel, supposing that Tertullian has his ch. ii. 31 in view, as compared with Acts ii. 16–33. This is too harsh an interpretation. It is simpler and better to suppose that Tertullian really meant to quote the LXX. of the passage in Amos, but in mistake named Joel as his prophet.
  11. Isa. xlii. 19, altered.
  12. Isa. i. 2, 3.
  13. This seems to be a translation with a slight alteration of the LXX. version of Lam. iv. 20, πνεῦμα προσώπου ἡμῶν Χριστὸς Κύριος .
  14. Isa. i. 4.
  15. Retro.
  16. Per ejusdem substantiæ conditionem.
  17. He seems here to allude to such statements of God’s being as Col. ii. 9.
  18. Substantiam prædictationis.
  19. Materiam.
  20. Alterius, “the other,” i.e., Marcion’s rival God.
  21. Planum in signis, cf. the Magnum in potestate of Apolog. 21.
  22. Æmulum, “a rival,” i.e., to Moses.
  23. Nec hominem ejus ut alienum judicaverunt, “His manhood they judged not to be different.”