Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Anti-Marcion/The Prescription Against Heretics/Chapter VIII

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Chapter VIII.—Christ’s Word, Seek, and Ye Shall Find, No Warrant for Heretical Deviations from the Faith. All Christ’s Words to the Jews are for Us, Not Indeed as Specific Commands, But as Principles to Be Applied.

I come now to the point which (is urged both by our own brethren and by the heretics). Our brethren adduce it as a pretext for entering on curious inquiries,[1] and the heretics insist on it for importing the scrupulosity (of their unbelief).[2] It is written, they say, “Seek, and ye shall find.”[3] Let us remember at what time the Lord said this. I think it was at the very outset of His teaching, when there was still a doubt felt by all whether He were the Christ, and when even Peter had not yet declared Him to be the Son of God, and John (Baptist) had actually ceased to feel assurance about Him.[4] With good reason, therefore, was it then said, “Seek, and ye shall find,” when inquiry was still be to made of Him who was not yet become known. Besides, this was said in respect of the Jews. For it is to them that the whole matter[5] of this reproof[6] pertains, seeing that they had (a revelation) where they might seek Christ.

“They have,” says He, “Moses and Elias,”[7]—in other words, the law and the prophets, which preach Christ; as also in another place He says plainly, “Search the Scriptures, in which ye expect (to find) salvation; for they testify of me;”[8] which will be the meaning of “Seek, and ye shall find.” For it is clear that the next words also apply to the Jews: “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”[9] The Jews had formerly been in covenant with[10] God; but being afterwards cast off on account of their sins, they began to be[11] without God. The Gentiles, on the contrary, had never been in covenant with God; they were only as “a drop from a bucket,” and “as dust from the threshing floor,”[12] and were ever outside the door. Now, how shall he who was always outside knock at the place where he never was? What door does he know of, when he has passed through none, either by entrance or ejection?  Is it not rather he who is aware that he once lived within and was thrust out, that (probably) found the door and knocked thereat? In like manner, “Ask, and ye shall receive,”[13] is suitably said[14] to one who was aware from whom he ought to ask,—by whom also some promise had been given; that is to say, “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.” Now, the Gentiles knew nothing either of Him, or of any of His promises. Therefore it was to Israel that he spake when He said, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”[15] Not yet had He “cast to the dogs the children’s bread;”[16] not yet did He charge them to “go into the way of the Gentiles.”[17] It is only at the last that He instructs them to “go and teach all nations, and baptize them,”[18] when they were so soon to receive “the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, who should guide them into all the truth.”[19] And this, too, makes towards the same conclusion. If the apostles, who were ordained[20] to be teachers to the Gentiles, were themselves to have the Comforter for their teacher, far more needless[21] was it to say to us, “Seek, and ye shall find,” to whom was to come, without research,[22] our instruction[23] by the apostles, and to the apostles themselves by the Holy Ghost. All the Lord’s sayings, indeed, are set forth for all men; through the ears of the Jews have they passed on to us. Still most of them were addressed to Jewish persons;[24] they therefore did not constitute instruction properly designed[25] for ourselves, but rather an example.[26]


  1. Curiositatem.
  2. Scrupulositatem, “hair-splitting.”
  3. Matt. vii. 7.
  4. See our translation of the Anti-Marcion, iv. 18 (infra), and Tertullian’s treatise, de Bapt. x.
  5. Sermo.
  6. Suggillationis.
  7. Luke xvi. 29.
  8. John v. 39.
  9. Matt. vii. 7.
  10. Penes.
  11. Or, “were for the first time.”
  12. Isa. xl. 15.
  13. Matt. vii. 7.
  14. Competit.
  15. Matt. xv. 24.
  16. Ver. 26.
  17. Matt. x. 5.
  18. Matt. xxviii. 19.
  19. John xvi. 13.
  20. Destinati.
  21. Multo magis vacabat.
  22. Ultro.
  23. Doctrina.
  24. In personas, i.e., Judæorum (Oehler).
  25. Proprietatem admonitionis.
  26. “That is, not a specific command” primarily meant for us, but a principle “to be applied by us” (Dodgson).