Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: Out of St. Luke's Fifth Chapter are Found Proofs of Christ's Belonging to the Creator, E.g. In the Call of Fishermen to the Apostolic Office, and in the Cleansing of the Leper. Christ Compared with the Prophet Elisha.
Chapter IX.—Out of St. Lukes Fifth Chapter are Found Proofs of Christs Belonging to the Creator, E.g. In the Call of Fishermen to the Apostolic Office, and in the Cleansing of the Leper. Christ Compared with the Prophet Elisha.
Out of so many kinds of occupations, why indeed had He such respect for that of fishermen, as to select from it for apostles Simon and the sons of Zebedee (for it cannot seem to be the mere fact itself for which the narrative was meant to be drawn out 3711 ), saying to Peter, when he trembled at the very large draught of the fishes, “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men?” 3712 By saying this, He suggested to them the meaning of the fulfilled prophecy, that it was even He who by Jeremiah had foretold, “Behold, I will send many fishers; and they shall fish them,” 3713 that is, men. Then at last they left their boats, and followed Him, understanding that it was He who had begun to accomplish what He had declared. It is quite another case, when he affected to choose from the college of shipmasters, intending one day to appoint the shipmaster Marcion his apostle. We have indeed already laid it down, in opposition to his Antitheses, that the position of Marcion derives no advantage from the diversity which he supposes to exist between the Law and the Gospel, inasmuch as even this was ordained by the Creator, and indeed predicted in the promise of the new Law, and the new Word, and the new Testament. Since, however, he quotes with especial care, 3714 as a proof in his domain, 3715 a certain companion in misery (συνταλαίπωρον), and associate in hatred (συμμισούμενον ), with himself, for the cure of leprosy, 3716 I shall not be sorry to meet him, and before anything else to point out to him the force of the law figuratively interpreted, which, in this example of a leper (who was not to be touched, but was rather to be removed from all intercourse with others), prohibited any communication with a person who was defiled with sins, with whom the apostle also forbids us even to eat food, 3717 forasmuch as the taint of sins would be communicated as if contagious, wherever a man should mix himself with the sinner. The Lord, therefore, wishing that the law should be more profoundly understood as signifying spiritual truths by carnal facts 3718 —and thus 3719 not dep. 356 stroying, but rather building up, that law which He wanted to have more earnestly acknowledged—touched the leper, by whom (even although as man He might have been defiled) He could not be defiled as God, being of course incorruptible. The prescription, therefore, could not be meant for Him, that He was bound to observe the law and not touch the unclean person, seeing that contact with the unclean would not cause defilement to Him. I thus teach that this (immunity) is consistent in my Christ, the rather when I show that it is not consistent in yours. Now, if it was as an enemy 3720 of the law that He touched the leper—disregarding the precept of the law by a contempt of the defilement—how could he be defiled, when he possessed not a body 3721 which could be defiled? For a phantom is not susceptible of defilement. He therefore, who could not be defiled, as being a phantom, will not have an immunity from pollution by any divine power, but owing to his fantastic vacuity; nor can he be regarded as having despised pollution, who had not in fact any material capacity 3722 for it; nor, in like manner, as having destroyed the law, who had escaped defilement from the occasion of his phantom nature, not from any display of virtue. If, however, the Creators prophet Elisha cleansed Naaman the Syrian alone, 3723 to the exclusion of 3724 so many lepers in Israel, 3725 this fact contributes nothing to the distinction of Christ, as if he were in this way the better one for cleansing this Israelite leper, although a stranger to him, whom his own Lord had been unable to cleanse. The cleansing of the Syrian rather 3726 was significant throughout the nations of the world 3727 of their own cleansing in Christ their light, 3728 steeped as they were in the stains of the seven deadly sins: 3729 idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery, fornication, false-witness, and fraud. 3730 Seven times, therefore, as if once for each, 3731 did he wash in Jordan; both in order that he might celebrate the expiation of a perfect hebdomad; 3732 and because the virtue and fulness of the one baptism was thus solemnly imputed 3733 to Christ, alone, who was one day to establish on earth not only a revelation, but also a baptism, endued with compendious efficacy. 3734 Even Marcion finds here an antithesis: 3735 how that Elisha indeed required a material resource, applied water, and that seven times; whereas Christ, by the employment of a word only, and that but once for all, instantly effected 3736 the cure. And surely I might venture 3737 to claim 3738 the Very Word also as of the Creators substance. There is nothing of which He who was the primitive Author is not also the more powerful one. Forsooth, 3739 it is incredible that that power of the Creator should have, by a word, produced a remedy for a single malady, which once by a word brought into being so vast a fabric as the world! From what can the Christ of the Creator be better discerned, than from the power of His word? But Christ is on this account another (Christ), because He acted differently from Elisha—because, in fact, the master is more powerful than his servant! Why, Marcion, do you lay down the rule, that things are done by servants just as they are by their very masters? Are you not afraid that it will turn to your discredit, if you deny that Christ belongs to the Creator, on the ground that He was once more powerful than a servant of the Creator—since, in comparison with the weakness of Elisha, He is acknowledged to be the greater, if indeed greater! 3740 For the cure is the same, although there is a difference in the working of it. What has your Christ performed more than my Elisha? Nay, what great thing has the word of your Christ performed, when it has simply done that which a river of the Creator effected? On the same principle occurs all the rest. So far as renouncing all human glory went, He forbade the man to publish abroad the cure; but so far as the honour of the law was concerned, He requested that the usual course should be followed: “Go, show thyself to the priest, and p. 357 present the offering which Moses commanded.” 3741 For the figurative signs of the law in its types He still would have observed, because of their prophetic import. 3742 These types signified that a man, once a sinner, but afterwards purified 3743 from the stains thereof by the word of God, was bound to offer unto God in the temple a gift, even prayer and thanksgiving in the church through Christ Jesus, who is the Catholic Priest of the Father. 3744 Accordingly He added: “that it may be for a testimony unto you”—one, no doubt, whereby He would testify that He was not destroying the law, but fulfilling it; whereby, too, He would testify that it was He Himself who was foretold as about to undertake 3745 their sicknesses and infirmities. This very consistent and becoming explanation of “the testimony,” that adulator of his own Christ, Marcion seeks to exclude under the cover of mercy and gentleness. For, being both good (such are his words), and knowing, besides, that every man who had been freed from leprosy would be sure to perform the solemnities of the law, therefore He gave this precept. Well, what then? Has He continued in his goodness (that is to say, in his permission of the law) or not? For if he has persevered in his goodness, he will never become a destroyer of the law; nor will he ever be accounted as belonging to another god, because there would not exist that destruction of the law which would constitute his claim to belong to the other god. If, however, he has not continued good, by a subsequent destruction of the law, it is a false testimony which he has since imposed upon them in his cure of the leper; because he has forsaken his goodness, in destroying the law. If, therefore, he was good whilst upholding the law, 3746 he has now become evil as a destroyer of the law. However, by the support which he gave to the law, he affirmed that the law was good. For no one permits himself in the support of an evil thing. Therefore he is not only bad if he has permitted obedience to a bad law; but even worse still, if he has appeared 3747 as the destroyer of a good law. So that if he commanded the offering of the gift because he knew that every cured leper would be sure to bring one; he possibly abstained from commanding what he knew would be spontaneously done. In vain, therefore, was his coming down, as if with the intention of destroying the law, when he makes concessions to the keepers of the law. And yet, 3748 because he knew their disposition, 3749 he ought the more earnestly to have prevented their neglect of the law, 3750 since he had come for this purpose. Why then did he not keep silent, that man might of his own simple will obey the law? For then might he have seemed to some extent 3751 to have persisted in his patience. But he adds also his own authority increased by the weight of this “testimony.” Of what testimony, I ask, 3752 if not that of the assertion of the law? Surely it matters not in what way he asserted the law—whether as good, or as supererogatory, 3753 or as patient, or as inconstant—provided, Marcion, I drive you from your position. 3754 Observe, 3755 he commanded that the law should be fulfilled. In whatever way he commanded it, in the same way might he also have first uttered that sentiment: 3756 “I came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it.” 3757 What business, therefore, had you to erase out of the Gospel that which was quite consistent in it? 3758 For you have confessed that, in his goodness, he did in act what you deny that he did in word. 3759 We have therefore good proof that He uttered the word, in the fact that He did the deed; and that you have rather expunged the Lords word, than that our (evangelists) 3760 have inserted it.
Argumentum processurum erat.355:3712
See Luke v. 1-11.355:3713
Jer. xvi. 16.355:3714
Apud illum, i.e., the Creator.355:3716
Luke v. 12-14.355:3717
1 Cor. v. 11.355:3718
Per carnalia, by material things.355:3719
Another allusion to Marcions Docetic doctrine.356:3722
Ex., literally, “alone of.” So Luke iv. 27.356:3725
Compare 2 Kings 5:9, Luke 4:27.356:3726
Facilius—rather than of Israelites.356:3727
Per Nationes. [Bishop Andrewes thus classifies the “Sins of the Nations,” as Tertullians idea seems to have suggested: (1) Pride, Amorite; (2) Envy, Hittite; (3) Wrath, Perizzite; (4) Gluttony, Girgashite; (5) Lechery, Hivite; (6) Covetousness, Canaanite; (7) Sloth, Jebusite.]356:3728
Compare, in Simeons song, Luke ii. 32, the designation, “A light to lighten the Gentiles.”356:3729
[See Elucidation I.]356:3730
Such seems to be the meaning of the obscure passage in the original, “Syro facilius emundato significato per nationes emundationis in Christo lumine earum quæ septem maculis, capitalium delictorum inhorrerent, idoatria,” etc. We have treated significato as one member of an ablative absolute clause, from significatum, a noun occuring in Gloss. Lat. Gr. synonymous with δήλωσις. Rigault, in a note on the passage, imputes the obscurity to Tertullians arguing on the Marcionite hypothesis. “Marcion,” says he, “held that the prophets, like Elisha, belonged to the Creator, and Christ to the good God. To magnify Christs beneficence, he prominently dwells on the alleged fact, that Christ, although a stranger to the Creators world, yet vouchsafed to do good in it. This vain conceit Tertullian refutes from the Marcionite hypothesis itself. God the Creator, said they, had found Himself incapable of cleansing this Israelite; but He had more easily cleansed the Syrian. Christ, however, cleansed the Israelite, and so showed himself the superior power. Tertullian denies both positions.”356:3731
Quasi per singulos titulos.356:3732
There was a mystic completeness in the number seven.356:3733
Sicut sermonem compendiatum, ita et lavacrum. In chap. i. of this book, the N.T. is called the compendiatum. This illustrates the present phrase.356:3735
Et hoc opponit.356:3736
Quasi non audeam.356:3738
Plane. An ironical cavil from the Marcionite view.356:3740
Si tamen major.357:3741
Luke v. 14.357:3742
[i.e., the Great High Priest whose sacrifice is accepted of the Father, for the sins of the whole world.]357:3745
Suscepturus: to carry or take away.357:3746
Ab ea avertendos.357:3751
Matt. v. 17.357:3758
Quod salvum est.357:3759
That is, you retain the passage in St. Luke, which relates the act of honouring the law; but you reject that in St. Matthew, which contains Christs profession of honouring the law.357:3760
Nostros: or, perhaps, “our people,”—that is, the Catholics.
Next: Further Proofs of the Same Truth in the Same Chapter, from the Healing of the Paralytic, and from the Designation Son of Man Which Jesus Gives Himself. Tertullian Sustains His Argument by Several Quotations from the Prophets.
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