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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: Heretics Not Being Christians, But Rather Perverters of Christ's Teaching, May Not Claim the Christian Scriptures. These are a Deposit, Committed to and Carefully Kept by the Church.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXXVII.—Heretics Not Being Christians, But Rather Perverters of Christ’s Teaching, May Not Claim the Christian Scriptures. These are a Deposit, Committed to and Carefully Kept by the Church.

Since this is the case, in order that the truth may be adjudged to belong to us, “as many as walk according to the rule,” which the church has handed down from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, and Christ from God, the reason of our position is clear, when it determines that heretics ought not to be allowed to challenge an appeal to the Scriptures, since we, without the Scriptures, prove that they have nothing to do with the Scriptures. For as they are heretics, they cannot be true Christians, because it is not from Christ that they get that which they pursue of their own mere choice, and from the pursuit incur and admit the name of heretics. 2247 Thus, not being Christians, they have acquired 2248 no right to the Christian Scriptures; and it may be very fairly said to them, “Who are you? When and whence did you come? As you are none of mine, what have you to do with that which is mine? Indeed, Marcion, by what right do you hew my wood?  By whose permission, Valentinus, are you diverting the streams of my fountain? By what power, Apelles, are you removing my landmarks? This is my property. Why are you, the rest, sowing and feeding here at your own pleasure?  This (I say) is my property. I have long possessed it; I possessed it before you. I hold sure title-deeds from the original owners themselves, to whom the estate belonged.  I am the heir of the apostles.  Just as they carefully prepared their will and testament, and committed it to a trust, and adjured (the trustees to be faithful to their charge), 2249 even so do I hold it. As for you, they have, it is certain, always held you as disinherited, and rejected you as strangers—as enemies. But on what ground are heretics strangers and enemies to the apostles, if it be not from the difference of their teaching, which each individual of his own mere will has either advanced or received in opposition to the apostles?”



“That is, in following out their own choice (αἳρεσις) of opinions, they both receive and admit the name of heretics,” αἱρετικοί, “self-choosers” (Dodgson). [In Theology, technically, one must be a baptized Christian in order to be a heretic. The Mohammedans, e.g., are not heretics but pagans. But, our author speaks rhetorically.]




Compare 1 Tim. 5:21, 1 Tim. 6:13, 2 Tim. 2:14, 2 Tim. 4:1.

Next: Harmony of the Church and the Scriptures. Heretics Have Tampered with the Scriptures, and Mutilated, and Altered Them.  Catholics Never Change the Scriptures, Which Always Testify for Them.

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