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

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Chapter XXV.—The Apostles Did Not Keep Back Any of the Deposit of Doctrine Which Christ Had Entrusted to Them. St. Paul Openly Committed His Whole Doctrine to Timothy.

But here is, as we have said,[1] the same madness, in their allowing indeed that the apostles were ignorant of nothing, and preached not any (doctrines) which contradicted one another, but at the same time insisting that they did not reveal all to all men, for that they proclaimed some openly and to all the world, whilst they disclosed others (only) in secret and to a few, because Paul addressed even this expression to Timothy: “O Timothy, guard that which is entrusted to thee;”[2] and again: “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep.”[3] What is this deposit? Is it so secret as to be supposed to characterize[4] a new doctrine? or is it a part of that charge of which he says, “This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy?”[5] and also of that precept of which he says, “I charge thee in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Jesus Christ who witnessed a good confession under Pontius Pilate, that thou keep this commandment?”[6] Now, what is (this) commandment and what is (this) charge? From the preceding and the succeeding contexts, it will be manifest that there is no mysterious[7] hint darkly suggested in this expression about (some) far-fetched[8] doctrine, but that a warning is rather given against receiving any other (doctrine) than that which Timothy had heard from himself, as I take it publicly: “Before many witnesses” is his phrase.[9] Now, if they refuse to allow that the church is meant by these “many witnesses,” it matters nothing, since nothing could have been secret which was produced “before many witnesses.” Nor, again, must the circumstance of his having wished him to “commit these things to faithful men, who should be able to teach others also,”[10] be construed into a proof of there being some occult gospel. For, when he says “these things,” he refers to the things of which he is writing at the moment. In reference, however, to occult subjects, he would have called them, as being absent, those things, not these things, to one who had a joint knowledge of them with himself.[11]


  1. Above, in chap. xxii. [Note the Gnostic madness of such a plea. Kaye, p. 235 and Elucidation IV.]
  2. 1 Tim. vi. 20.
  3. 2 Tim. i. 14.
  4. Ut alterius doctrinæ deputetur.
  5. 1 Tim. i. 18.
  6. 1 Tim. vi. 13.
  7. Nescis quid.
  8. Remotiore.
  9. 2 Tim. ii. 2.
  10. 2 Tim. ii. 2.
  11. Apud conscientiam. [Clement of Alexandria is to be interpreted by Tertullian, with whom he does not essentially differ. For Clement’s Esoteric Doctrine (See Vol. II. pp. 302, 313, etc.) is defined as perfecting the type of the Christian by the strong meat of Truth, of which the entire deposit is presupposed as common to all Christians. We must not blame Clement for the abuse of his teaching by perverters of Truth itself.]