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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: The Title Christ Suitable as a Name of the Creator's Son, But Unsuited to Marcion's Christ.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XV.—The Title Christ Suitable as a Name of the Creator’s Son, But Unsuited to Marcion’s Christ.

Touching then the discussion of His flesh, and (through that) of His nativity, and incidentally 3301 of His name Emmanuel, let this suffice.  Concerning His other names, however, and especially that of Christ, what has the other side to say in reply? If the name of Christ is as common with you as is the name of God—so that as the Son of both Gods may be fitly called Christ, so each of the Fathers may be called Lord—reason will certainly be opposed to this argument. For the name of God, as being the natural designation of Deity, may be ascribed to all those beings for whom a divine nature is claimed,—as, for instance, even to idols. The apostle says: “For there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth.” 3302 The name of Christ, however, does not arise from nature, but from dispensation; 3303 and so becomes the proper name of Him to whom it accrues in consequence of the dispensation. Nor is it subject to be shared in by any other God, especially a rival, and one that has a dispensation of His own, to whom it will be also necessary that He should possess names apart from all others. For how happens it that, after they have dep. 334 vised different dispensations for two Gods they admit into this diversity of dispensation a community of names; whereas no proof could be more useful of two Gods being rival ones, than if there should be found coincident with their (diverse) dispensations a diversity also of names? For that is not a state of diverse qualities, which is not distinctly indicated 3304 in the specific meanings 3305 of their designations. Whenever these are wanting, there occurs what the Greeks call the katachresis 3306 of a term, by its improper application to what does not belong to it. 3307 In God, however, there ought, I suppose, to be no defect, no setting up of His dispensations by katachrestic abuse of words. Who is this god, that claims for his son names from the Creator? I say not names which do not belong to him, but ancient and well-known names, which even in this view of them would be unsuitable for a novel and unknown god.  How is it, again, that he tells us that “a piece of new cloth is not sewed on to an old garment,” or that “new wine is not trusted to old bottles,” 3308 when he is himself patched and clad in an old suit 3309 of names? How is it he has rent off the gospel from the law, when he is wholly invested with the law,—in the name, forsooth, of Christ? What hindered his calling himself by some other name, seeing that he preached another (gospel), came from another source, and refused to take on him a real body, for the very purpose that he might not be supposed to be the Creator’s Christ? Vain, however, was his unwillingness to seem to be He whose name he was willing to assume; since, even if he had been truly corporeal, he would more certainly escape being taken for the Christ of the Creator, if he had not taken on him His name.  But, as it is, he rejects the substantial verity of Him whose name he has assumed, even though he should give a proof of that verity by his name. For Christ means anointed, and to be anointed is certainly an affair 3310 of the body. He who had not a body, could not by any possibility have been anointed; he who could not by any possibility have been anointed, could not in any wise have been called Christ. It is a different thing (quite), if he only assumed the phantom of a name too. But how, he asks, was he to insinuate himself into being believed by the Jews, except through a name which was usual and familiar amongst them? Then ’tis a fickle and tricksty God whom you describe! To promote any plan by deception, is the resource of either distrust or of maliciousness. Much more frank and simple was the conduct of the false prophets against the Creator, when they came in His name as their own God. 3311 But I do not find that any good came of this proceeding, 3312 since they were more apt to suppose either that Christ was their own, or rather was some deceiver, than that He was the Christ of the other god; and this the gospel will show.


Footnotes

333:3301

Interim.

333:3302

1 Cor. viii. 5.

333:3303

Ex dispositione. This word seems to mean what is implied in the phrases, “Christian dispensation,” “Mosaic dispensation,” etc.

334:3304

Consignatur.

334:3305

Proprietatibus.

334:3306

Quintilian, Inst. viii. 6, defines this as a figure “which lends a name to things which have it not.”

334:3307

De alieno abutendo.

334:3308

Matt. 9:16, 17.

334:3309

Senio.

334:3310

Passio.

334:3311

Adversus Creatorem, in sui Dei nomine venientes.

334:3312

i.e., to the Marcionite position.


Next: The Sacred Name Jesus Most Suited to the Christ of the Creator. Joshua a Type of Him.

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