Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Apologetic/An Answer to the Jews/Concerning the Passion of Christ, and Its Old Testament Predictions and Adumbrations
Chapter X.—Concerning the Passion of Christ, and Its Old Testament Predictions and Adumbrations.
Concerning the last step, plainly, of His passion you raise a doubt; affirming that the passion of the cross was not predicted with reference to Christ, and urging, besides, that it is not credible that God should have exposed His own Son to that kind of death; because Himself said, “Cursed is every one who shall have hung on a tree.” But the reason of the case antecedently explains the sense of this malediction; for He says in Deuteronomy: “If, moreover, (a man) shall have been (involved) in some sin incurring the judgment of death, and shall die, and ye shall suspend him on a tree, his body shall not remain on the tree, but with burial ye shall bury him on the very day; because cursed by God is every one who shall have been suspended on a tree; and ye shall not defile the land which the Lord thy God shall give thee for (thy) lot.” Therefore He did not maledictively adjudge Christ to this passion, but drew a distinction, that whoever, in any sin, had incurred the judgment of death, and died suspended on a tree, he should be “cursed by God,” because his own sins were the cause of his suspension on the tree. On the other hand, Christ, who spoke not guile from His mouth, and who exhibited all righteousness and humility, not only (as we have above recorded it predicted of Him) was not exposed to that kind of death for his own deserts, but (was so exposed) in order that what was predicted by the prophets as destined to come upon Him through your means might be fulfilled; just as, in the Psalms, the Spirit Himself of Christ was already singing, saying, “They were repaying me evil for good;” and, “What I had not seized I was then paying in full;” “They exterminated my hands and feet;” and, “They put into my drink gall, and in my thirst they slaked me with vinegar;” “Upon my vesture they did cast (the) lot;” just as the other (outrages) which you were to commit on Him were foretold,—all which He, actually and thoroughly suffering, suffered not for any evil action of His own, but “that the Scriptures from the mouth of the prophets might be fulfilled.”
And, of course, it had been meet that the mystery of the passion itself should be figuratively set forth in predictions; and the more incredible (that mystery), the more likely to be “a stumbling-stone,” if it had been nakedly predicted; and the more magnificent, the more to be adumbrated, that the difficulty of its intelligence might seek (help from) the grace of God.
Accordingly, to begin with, Isaac, when led by his father as a victim, and himself bearing his own “wood,” was even at that early period pointing to Christ’s death; conceded, as He was, as a victim by the Father; carrying, as He did, the “wood” of His own passion.
Joseph, again, himself was made a figure of Christ in this point alone (to name no more, not to delay my own course), that he suffered persecution at the hands of his brethren, and was sold into Egypt, on account of the favour of God; just as Christ was sold by Israel—(and therefore,) “according to the flesh,” by His “brethren”—when He is betrayed by Judas. For Joseph is withal blest by his father after this form: “His glory (is that) of a bull; his horns, the horns of an unicorn; on them shall he toss nations alike unto the very extremity of the earth.” Of course no one-horned rhinoceros was there pointed to, nor any two-horned minotaur. But Christ was therein signified: “bull,” by reason of each of His two characters,—to some fierce, as Judge; to others gentle, as Saviour; whose “horns” were to be the extremities of the cross. For even in a ship’s yard—which is part of a cross—this is the name by which the extremities are called; while the central pole of the mast is a “unicorn.” By this power, in fact, of the cross, and in this manner horned, He does now, on the one hand, “toss” universal nations through faith, wafting them away from earth to heaven; and will one day, on the other, “toss” them through judgment, casting them down from heaven to earth.
He, again, will be the “bull” elsewhere too in the same scripture. When Jacob pronounced a blessing on Simeon and Levi, he prophesies of the scribes and Pharisees; for from them is derived their origin. For (his blessing) interprets spiritually thus: “Simeon and Levi perfected iniquity out of their sect,”—whereby, to wit, they persecuted Christ: “into their counsel come not my soul! and upon their station rest not my heart! because in their indignation they slew men”—that is, prophets—“and in their concupiscence they hamstrung a bull!”—that is, Christ, whom—after the slaughter of prophets—they slew, and exhausted their savagery by transfixing His sinews with nails. Else it is idle if, after the murder already committed by them, he upbraids others, and not them, with butchery.
But, to come now to Moses, why, I wonder, did he merely at the time when Joshua was battling against Amalek, pray sitting with hands expanded, when, in circumstances so critical, he ought rather, surely, to have commended his prayer by knees bended, and hands beating his breast, and a face prostrate on the ground; except it was that there, where the name of the Lord Jesus was the theme of speech—destined as He was to enter the lists one day singly against the devil—the figure of the cross was also necessary, (that figure) through which Jesus was to win the victory? Why, again, did the same Moses, after the prohibition of any “likeness of anything,” set forth a brazen serpent, placed on a “tree,” in a hanging posture, for a spectacle of healing to Israel, at the time when, after their idolatry, they were suffering extermination by serpents, except that in this case he was exhibiting the Lord’s cross on which the “serpent” the devil was “made a show of,” and, for every one hurt by such snakes—that is, his angels—on turning intently from the peccancy of sins to the sacraments of Christ’s cross, salvation was outwrought? For he who then gazed upon that (cross) was freed from the bite of the serpents.
Come, now, if you have read in the utterance of the prophet in the Psalms, “God hath reigned from the tree,” I wait to hear what you understand thereby; for fear you may perhaps think some carpenter-king is signified, and not Christ, who has reigned from that time onward when he overcame the death which ensued from His passion of “the tree.”
Similarly, again, Isaiah says: “For a child is born to us, and to us is given a son.” What novelty is that, unless he is speaking of the “Son” of God?—and one is born to us the beginning of whose government has been made “on His shoulder.” What king in the world wears the ensign of his power on his shoulder, and does not bear either diadem on his head, or else sceptre in his hand, or else some mark of distinctive vesture? But the novel “King of ages,” Christ Jesus, alone reared “on His shoulder” His own novel glory, and power, and sublimity,—the cross, to wit; that, according to the former prophecy, the Lord thenceforth “might reign from the tree.” For of this tree likewise it is that God hints, through Jeremiah, that you would say, “Come, let us put wood into his bread, and let us wear him away out of the land of the living; and his name shall no more be remembered.” Of course on His body that “wood” was put; for so Christ has revealed, calling His body “bread,” whose body the prophet in bygone days announced under the term “bread.” If you shall still seek for predictions of the Lord’s cross, the twenty-first Psalm will at length be able to satisfy you, containing as it does the whole passion of Christ; singing, as He does, even at so early a date, His own glory. “They dug,” He says, “my hands and feet”—which is the peculiar atrocity of the cross; and again when He implores the aid of the Father, “Save me,” He says, “out of the mouth of the lion”—of course, of death—“and from the horn of the unicorns my humility,”—from the ends, to wit, of the cross, as we have above shown; which cross neither David himself suffered, nor any of the kings of the Jews: that you may not think the passion of some other particular man is here prophesied than His who alone was so signally crucified by the People.
Now, if the hardness of your heart shall persist in rejecting and deriding all these interpretations, we will prove that it may suffice that the death of the Christ had been prophesied, in order that, from the fact that the nature of the death had not been specified, it may be understood to have been affected by means of the cross and that the passion of the cross is not to be ascribed to any but Him whose death was constantly being predicted. For I desire to show, in one utterance of Isaiah, His death, and passion, and sepulture. “By the crimes,” he says, “of my people was He led unto death; and I will give the evil for His sepulture, and the rich for His death, because He did not wickedness, nor was guile found in his mouth; and God willed to redeem His soul from death,” and so forth. He says again, moreover: “His sepulture hath been taken away from the midst.” For neither was He buried except He were dead, nor was His sepulture removed from the midst except through His resurrection. Finally, he subjoins: “Therefore He shall have many for an heritage, and of many shall He divide spoils:” who else (shall so do) but He who “was born,” as we have above shown?—“in return for the fact that His soul was delivered unto death?” For, the cause of the favour accorded Him being shown,—in return, to wit, for the injury of a death which had to be recompensed,—it is likewise shown that He, destined to attain these rewards because of death, was to attain them after death—of course after resurrection. For that which happened at His passion, that mid-day grew dark, the prophet Amos announces, saying, “And it shall be,” he says, “in that day, saith the Lord, the sun shall set at mid-day, and the day of light shall grow dark over the land: and I will convert your festive days into grief, and all your canticles into lamentation; and I will lay upon your loins sackcloth, and upon every head baldness; and I will make the grief like that for a beloved (son), and them that are with him like a day of mourning.” For that you would do thus at the beginning of the first month of your new (years) even Moses prophesied, when he was foretelling that all the community of the sons of Israel was to immolate at eventide a lamb, and were to eat this solemn sacrifice of this day (that is, of the passover of unleavened bread) with bitterness;” and added that “it was the passover of the Lord,” that is, the passion of Christ. Which prediction was thus also fulfilled, that “on the first day of unleavened bread” you slew Christ; and (that the prophecies might be fulfilled) the day hasted to make an “eventide,”—that is, to cause darkness, which was made at mid-day; and thus “your festive days God converted into grief, and your canticles into lamentation.” For after the passion of Christ there overtook you even captivity and dispersion, predicted before through the Holy Spirit.
- Comp. Deut. xxi. 23 with Gal. iii. 13, with Prof. Lightfoot on the latter passage.
- Deut. xxi. 22, 23 (especially in the LXX.).
- See 1 Pet. ii. 22 with Isa. liii. 9.
- Oehler’s pointing is disregarded.
- Ps. xxxv. (xxxiv. in LXX.) 12.
- Ps. lxix. 4 (lxviii. 5 in LXX.).
- Ps. xxii. 16 (xxi. 17 in LXX.).
- Ps. lxix. 21 (lxviii. 5 in LXX.).
- Ps. xxii. 18 (xxi. 19 in LXX.).
- See Matt. xxvi. 56; xxvii. 34, 35; John xix. 23, 24, 28, 32–37.
- See Rom. ix. 32, 33, with Isa. xxviii. 16; 1 Cor. i. 23; Gal. v. 11.
- Lignum = ξύλον; constantly used for “tree.”
- Comp. Gen. xxii. 1–10 with John xix. 17.
- “Christum figuratus” is Oehler’s reading, after the two mss. and the Pamelian ed. of 1579; the rest read “figurans” or “figuravit.”
- Manifested e.g., in his two dreams. See Gen. xxxvii.
- Comp. Rom. ix. 5.
- Or, “Judah.”
- This is an error. It is not “his father,” Jacob, but Moses, who thus blesses him. See Deut. xxxiii. 17. The same error occurs in adv. Marc. 1. iii. c. xxiii.
- Not strictly “the same;” for here the reference is to Gen. xlix. 5–7.
- i.e., Simeon and Levi.
- i.e., the scribes and Pharisees.
- Perfecerunt iniquitatem ex sua secta. There seems to be a play on the word “secta” in connection with the outrage committed by Simeon and Levi, as recorded in Gen. xxxiv. 25–31; and for συνετέλεσαν ἀδικίαν ἐξαιρέσεως αὐτῶν (which is the reading of the LXX., ed. Tisch. 3, Lips. 1860), Tertullian’s Latin seems to have read, συνετέλεσαν ἀδικίαν ἐξ αἱρέσεως αὐτῶν.
- See Gen. xlix. 5–7 in LXX.; and comp. the margin of Eng. ver. on ver. 7, and Wordsworth in loc., who incorrectly renders ταῦρον an “ox” here.
- What the sense of this is it is not easy to see. It appears to have puzzled Pam. and Rig. so effectually that they both, conjecturally and without authority, adopted the reading found in adv. Marc. l. iii. c. xviii. (from which book, as usual, the present passage is borrowed), only altering illis to ipsis.
- See Ex. xvii. 8–16; and comp. Col. ii. 14, 15.
- Ex. xx. 4.
- Their sin was “speaking against God and against Moses” (Num. xxi. 4–9).
- Comp. Col. ii. 14, 15, as before; also Gen. iii. 1, etc.; 2 Cor. xi. 3; Rev. xii. 9.
- Comp. 2 Cor. xi. 14, 15; Matt. xxv. 41; Rev. xii. 9.
- Comp. de Idol. c. v.; adv. Marc. l. iii. c. xviii.
- A ligno. Oehler refers us to Ps. xcvi. 10 (xcv. 10 in LXX.); but the special words “a ligno” are wanting there, though the text is often quoted by the Fathers.
- Lignarium aliquem regem. It is remarkable, in connection herewith, that our Lord is not only called by the Jews “the carpenter’s son” (Matt. xiii. 55; Luke iv. 22), but “the carpenter” (Mark vi. 3).
- See Isa. ix. 6.
- See Jer. xi. 19 (in LXX.).
- i.e., when they laid on Him the crossbeam to carry. See John xix. 17.
- See John vi. passim, and the various accounts of the institution of the Holy Supper.
- It is Ps. xxii. in our Bibles, xxi. in LXX.
- Ver. 16 (17 in LXX.).
- Ps. xxii. 21 (xxi. 22 in LXX., who render it as Tertullian does).
- i.e., perhaps, because of the extreme ignominy attaching to that death, which prevented its being expressly named.
- Isa. liii. 8, 9, 10, (in LXX.).
- Isa. lvii. 2 (in LXX.).
- Isa. liii. 12 (in LXX.). Comp., too, Bp. Lowth. Oehler’s pointing again appears to be faulty.
- See Amos viii. 9, 10 (especially in the LXX.).
- Oehler’s “esset” appears to be a mistake for “esse.”
- The change from singular to plural is due to the Latin, not to the translator.
- See Ex. xii. 1–11.
- See Matt. xxvi. 17; Mark xiv. 12; Luke xxii. 7; John xviii. 28.
- Comp. 1 Cor. v. 7.