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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: Other Beings Besides God are in Scripture Called God. This Objection Frivolous, for It is Not a Question of Names. The Divine Essence is the Thing at Issue. Heresy, in Its General Terms, Thus Far Treated.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter VII.—Other Beings Besides God are in Scripture Called God.  This Objection Frivolous, for It is Not a Question of Names. The Divine Essence is the Thing at Issue. Heresy, in Its General Terms, Thus Far Treated.

But this argument you will try to shake with an objection from the name of God, by alleging that that name is a vague 2400 one, and applied to other beings also; as it is written, “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; 2401 He judgeth among the gods.” And again, “I have said, Ye are gods.” 2402 As therefore the attribute of supremacy would be inappropriate to these, although they are called gods, so is it to the Creator. This is a foolish objection; and my answer to it is, that its author fails to consider that quite as strong an objection might be urged against the (superior) god of Marcion: he too is called god, but is not on that account proved to be divine, as neither are angels nor men, the Creator’s handiwork. If an identity of names affords a presumption in support of equality of condition, how often do worthless menials strut insolently in the names of kings—your Alexanders, Cæsars, and Pompeys! 2403 This fact, p. 276 however, does not detract from the real attributes of the royal persons.  Nay more, the very idols of the Gentiles are called gods. Yet not one of them is divine because he is called a god. It is not, therefore, for the name of god, for its sound or its written form, that I am claiming the supremacy in the Creator, but for the essence 2404 to which the name belongs; and when I find that essence alone is unbegotten and unmade—alone eternal, and the maker of all things—it is not to its name, but its state, not to its designation, but its condition, that I ascribe and appropriate the attribute of the supremacy.  And so, because the essence to which I ascribe it has come 2405 to be called god, you suppose that I ascribe it to the name, because I must needs use a name to express the essence, of which indeed that Being consists who is called God, and who is accounted the great Supreme because of His essence, not from His name. In short, Marcion himself, when he imputes this character to his god, imputes it to the nature, 2406 not to the word. That supremacy, then, which we ascribe to God in consideration of His essence, and not because of His name, ought, as we maintain, to be equal 2407 in both the beings who consist of that substance for which the name of God is given; because, in as far as they are called gods (i.e. supreme beings, on the strength, of course, of their unbegotten and eternal, and therefore great and supreme essence), in so far the attribute of being the great Supreme cannot be regarded as less or worse in one than in another great Supreme. If the happiness, and sublimity, and perfection 2408 of the Supreme Being shall hold good of Marcion’s god, it will equally so of ours; and if not of ours, it will equally not hold of Marcion’s. Therefore two supreme beings will be neither equal nor unequal: not equal, because the principle which we have just expounded, that the Supreme Being admits of no comparison with Himself, forbids it; not unequal, because another principle meets us respecting the Supreme Being, that He is capable of no diminution. So, Marcion, you are caught 2409 in the midst of your own Pontic tide.  The waves of truth overwhelm you on every side. You can neither set up equal gods nor unequal ones. For there are not two; so far as the question of number is properly concerned. Although the whole matter of the two gods is at issue, we have yet confined our discussion to certain bounds, within which we shall now have to contend about separate peculiarities.


Footnotes

275:2400

Passivo.

275:2401

לא”־תרַעַבְּ. Tertullian’s version is: In ecclesia deorum. The Vulgate: In synagoga deorum.

275:2402

Ps. 82:1, 6.

275:2403

The now less obvious nicknames of “Alex. Darius and Olofernes,” are in the text.

276:2404

Substantiæ.

276:2405

Vocari obtinuit.

276:2406

Statum.

276:2407

Ex pari.

276:2408

Integritas.

276:2409

Hæsisti.


Next: Specific Points.  The Novelty of Marcion's God Fatal to His Pretensions. God is from Everlasting, He Cannot Be in Any Wise New.

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