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

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Chapter XIV.—Curiosity Ought Not Range Beyond the Rule of Faith. Restless Curiosity, the Feature of Heresy.

So long, however, as its form exists in its proper order, you may seek and discuss as much as you please, and give full rein to[1] your curiosity, in whatever seems to you to hang in doubt, or to be shrouded in obscurity. You have at hand, no doubt, some learned[2] brother gifted with the grace of knowledge, some one of the experienced class, some one of your close acquaintance who is curious like yourself; although with yourself, a seeker he will, after all,[3] be quite aware[4] that it is better for you to remain in ignorance, lest you should come to know what you ought not, because you have acquired the knowledge of what you ought to know.[5] “Thy faith,” He says, “hath saved thee”[6] not observe your skill[7] in the Scriptures. Now, faith has been deposited in the rule; it has a law, and (in the observance thereof) salvation. Skill,[8] however, consists in curious art, having for its glory simply the readiness that comes from knack.[9] Let such curious art give place to faith; let such glory yield to salvation. At any rate, let them either relinquish their noisiness,[10] or else be quiet. To know nothing in opposition to the rule (of faith), is to know all things. (Suppose) that heretics were not enemies to the truth, so that we were not forewarned to avoid them, what sort of conduct would it be to agree with men who do themselves confess that they are still seeking? For if they are still seeking, they have not as yet found anything amounting to certainty; and therefore, whatever they seem for a while[11] to hold, they betray their own scepticism,[12] whilst they continue seeking. You therefore, who seek after their fashion, looking to those who are themselves ever seeking, a doubter to doubters, a waverer to waverers, must needs be “led, blindly by the blind, down into the ditch.”[13] But when, for the sake of deceiving us, they pretend that they are still seeking, in order that they may palm[14] their essays[15] upon us by the suggestion of an anxious sympathy,[16]—when, in short (after gaining an access to us), they proceed at once to insist on the necessity of our inquiring into such points as they were in the habit of advancing, then it is high time for us in moral obligation[17] to repel[18] them, so that they may know that it is not Christ, but themselves, whom we disavow. For since they are still seekers, they have no fixed tenets yet;[19] and being not fixed in tenet, they have not yet believed; and being not yet believers, they are not Christians. But even though they have their tenets and their belief, they still say that inquiry is necessary in order to discussion.[20] Previous, however, to the discussion, they deny what they confess not yet to have believed, so long as they keep it an object of inquiry. When men, therefore, are not Christians even on their own admission,[21] how much more (do they fail to appear such) to us! What sort of truth is that which they patronize,[22] when they commend it to us with a lie?  Well, but they actually[23] treat of the Scriptures and recommend (their opinions) out of the Scriptures! To be sure they do.[24] From what other source could they derive arguments concerning the things of the faith, except from the records of the faith?


  1. Omnem libidinem effundas, “pour out the whole desire for.”
  2. Doctor, literally, “teacher.” See Eph. iv. 11; also above; chap. iii. p. 244.
  3. This seems to be the more probable meaning of novissime in this rather obscure sentence. Oehler treats it adverbially as “postremo,” and refers to a similar use of the word below in chap. xxx. Dr. Routh (and, after him, the translator in The Library of the Fathers, Tertullian, p. 448) makes the word a noun, “thou newest of novices,” and refers to Tertullian’s work, against Praxeas, chap. xxvii., for a like use. This seems to us too harsh for the present context.
  4. Sciet.
  5. See 1 Cor. xii. 8.
  6. Luke xviii. 42.
  7. Exercitatio.
  8. Exercitatio.
  9. De peritiæ studio.
  10. Non obstrepant.
  11. Interim.
  12. Dubitationem.
  13. Matt. xv. 14.
  14. Insinuent.
  15. Tractatus.
  16. Or, “by instilling an anxiety into us” (Dodgson).
  17. Jam debemus.
  18. Refutare.
  19. Nondum tenent.
  20. Ut defendant.
  21. Nec sibi sunt.
  22. Patrocinantur.
  23. Ipsi.
  24. Scilicet.