Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Anti-Marcion/The Prescription Against Heretics/Chapter I
The Prescription Against Heretics.
[Translated by the Rev. Peter Holmes, D.D., F.R.A.S., Etc., Etc.]
Chapter I.—Introductory. Heresies Must Exist, and Even Abound; They are a Probation to Faith.
The character of the times in which we live is such as to call forth from us even this admonition, that we ought not to be astonished at the heresies (which abound) neither ought their existence to surprise us, for it was foretold that they should come to pass; nor the fact that they subvert the faith of some, for their final cause is, by affording a trial to faith, to give it also the opportunity of being “approved.” Groundless, therefore, and inconsiderate is the offence of the many who are scandalized by the very fact that heresies prevail to such a degree. How great (might their offence have been) if they had not existed. When it has been determined that a thing must by all means be, it receives the (final) cause for which it has its being. This secures the power through which it exists, in such a way that it is impossible for it not to have existence.
- Of the various forms of the title of this treatise, de Præscriptione Hæreticorum, de Præscriptionibus Hæreticorum, de Præscriptionibus adversus Hæreticos, the first is adopted by Oehler after the oldest authorities, such as the Liber Argobardinus and the Codex Paterniacensis (or Seletstadiensis), and the Editio Princeps of Rhenanus. The term præscriptio is a legal one, meaning a demurrer, or formal objection. The genitive hæreticorum is used in an objective sense, as if adversus hæreticos. Tertullian himself, in de Carne Christi, ii. says, “Sed plenius ejusmodi præscriptionibus adversus omnes hæreses alibi jam usi sumus.” The title therefore means, “On the Church’s Prescriptive Rule against Heresies of all kinds.” [Elucidation I.]
- Matt. vii. 15; xxiv. 4, 11, 24; 1 Tim. iv. 1–3; 2 Pet. ii. 1.
- 1 Cor. xi. 19.
- Plerique, “the majority.”
- The Holy Ghost having foretold that they should exist. (Rigalt.)