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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: Miracles Alone, Without Prophecy, an Insufficient Evidence of Christ's Mission.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter III.—Miracles Alone, Without Prophecy, an Insufficient Evidence of Christ’s Mission.

A procedure 3116 of this kind, you say, was not necessary, because He was forthwith to prove Himself the Son and the Sent One, and the Christ of God in very deed, by means of the evidence of His wonderful works. 3117 On my side, however, I have to deny that evidence simply of this sort was sufficient as a testimony to Him. He Himself afterwards deprived it of its authority, 3118 because when He declared that many would come and “show great signs and wonders,” 3119 so as to turn aside the very elect, and yet for all that were not to be received, He showed how rash was belief in signs and wonders, which were so very easy of accomplishment by even false christs. Else how happens it, if He meant Himself to be approved and understood, and received on a certain evidence—I mean that of miracles—that He forbade the recognition of those others who had the very same sort of proof to show, and whose coming was to be quite as sudden and unannounced by any authority? 3120 If, because He came before them, and was beforehand with them in displaying the signs of His mighty deeds, He therefore seized the first right to men’s faith,—just as the firstcomers do the first place in the baths,—and so forestalled all who came after Him in that right, take care that He, too, be not caught in the condition of the later comers, if He be found to be behindhand with the Creator, who had already been made known, and had already worked miracles like Him, 3121 and like Him had forewarned men not to believe in others, even such as should come after Him. If, therefore, to have been the first to come and utter this warning, is to bar and limit faith, 3122 He will Himself have to be condemned, because He was later in being acknowledged; and authority to prescribe such a rule about later comers will belong to the Creator alone, who could have been posterior to none. And now, when I am about to prove that the Creator sometimes displayed by His servants of old, and in other cases reserved for His Christ to display, the self-same miracles which you claim as solely due to faith in your Christ, I may fairly even from this maintain that there was so much the greater reason wherefore Christ should not be believed in simply on account of His miracles, inasmuch as these would have shown Him to belong to none other (God) than the Creator, because answering to the mighty deeds of the Creator, both as performed by His servants and reserved for 3123 His Christ; although, even if some other proofs should be found in your Christ—new ones, to wit—we should more readily believe that they, too, belong to the same God as do the old ones, rather than to him who p. 323 has no other than new 3124 proofs, such as are wanting in the evidences of that antiquity which wins the assent of faith, 3125 so that even on this ground he ought to have come announced as much by prophecies of his own building up faith in him, as by miracles, especially in opposition to the Creator’s Christ who was to come fortified by signs and prophets of His own, in order that he might shine forth as the rival of Christ by help of evidence of different kinds.  But how was his Christ to be foretold by a god who was himself never predicted? This, therefore, is the unavoidable inference, that neither your god nor your Christ is an object of faith, because God ought not to have been unknown, and Christ ought to have been made known through God. 3126


Footnotes

322:3116

Ordo.

322:3117

Virtutum, “miracles.”

322:3118

Exauctoravit.

322:3119

Matt. xxiv. 24. [See Kaye, p. 125.]

322:3120

Auctore.

322:3121

Proinde.

322:3122

Cludet, quasi claudet.

322:3123

Repromissis in.

323:3124

Tantummodo nova.

323:3125

Egentia experimentis fidei victricis vetustatis.

323:3126

i.e., through God’s announcement by prophecy.


Next: Marcion's Christ Not the Subject of Prophecy. The Absurd Consequences of This Theory of the Heretic.

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