Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: Comparison of Christ's Power Over Winds and Waves with Moses' Command of the Waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan. Christ's Power Over Unclean Spirits. The Case of the Legion. The Cure of the Issue of Blood. The Mosaic Uncleanness on This Point Explained.
Chapter XX.—Comparison of Christs Power Over Winds and Waves with Moses Command of the Waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan. Christs Power Over Unclean Spirits. The Case of the Legion. The Cure of the Issue of Blood. The Mosaic Uncleanness on This Point Explained.
But “what manner of man is this? for He commandeth even the winds and water!” 4216 Of course He is the new master and proprietor of the elements, now that the Creator is deposed, and excluded from their possession! Nothing of the kind. But the elements own 4217 their own Maker, just as they had been accustomed to obey His servants also. Examine well the Exodus, Marcion; look at the rod of Moses, as it waves His command to the Red Sea, ampler than all the lakes of Judæa. How the sea yawns from its very depths, then fixes itself in two solidified masses, and so, out of the interval between them, 4218 makes a way for the people to pass dry-shod across; again does the same rod vibrate, the sea returns in its strength, and in the concourse of its waters the chivalry of Egypt is engulphed! To that consummation the very winds subserved! Read, too, how that the Jordan was as a sword, to hinder the emigrant nation in their passage across its stream; how that its waters from above stood still, and its current below wholly ceased to run at the bidding of Joshua, 4219 when his priests began to pass over! 4220 p. 379 What will you say to this? If it be your Christ that is meant above, he will not be more potent than the servants of the Creator. But I should have been content with the examples I have adduced without addition, 4221 if a prediction of His present passage on the sea had not preceded Christs coming. As psalm is, in fact, accomplished by this 4222 crossing over the lake. “The Lord,” says the psalmist, “is upon many waters.” 4223 When He disperses its waves, Habakkuks words are fulfilled, where he says, “Scattering the waters in His passage.” 4224 When at His rebuke the sea is calmed, Nahum is also verified: He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry,” 4225 including the winds indeed, whereby it was disquieted. With what evidence would you have my Christ vindicated? Shall it come from the examples, or from the prophecies, of the Creator? You suppose that He is predicted as a military and armed warrior, 4226 instead of one who in a figurative and allegorical sense was to wage a spiritual warfare against spiritual enemies, in spiritual campaigns, and with spiritual weapons: come now, when in one man alone you discover a multitude of demons calling itself Legion, 4227 of course comprised of spirits, you should learn that Christ also must be understood to be an exterminator of spiritual foes, who wields spiritual arms and fights in spiritual strife; and that it was none other than He, 4228 who now had to contend with even a legion of demons. Therefore it is of such a war as this that the Psalm may evidently have spoken: “The Lord is strong, The Lord is mighty in battle.” 4229 For with the last enemy death did He fight, and through the trophy of the cross He triumphed. Now of what God did the Legion testify that Jesus was the Son? 4230 No doubt, of that God whose torments and abyss they knew and dreaded. It seems impossible for them to have remained up to this time in ignorance of what the power of the recent and unknown god was working in the world, because it is very unlikely that the Creator was ignorant thereof. For if He had been at any time ignorant that there was another god above Himself, He had by this time at all events discovered that there was one at work 4231 below His heaven. Now, what their Lord had discovered had by this time become notorious to His entire family within the same world and the same circuit of heaven, in which the strange deity dwelt and acted. 4232 As therefore both the Creator and His creatures 4233 must have had knowledge of him, if he had been in existence, so, inasmuch as he had no existence, the demons really knew none other than the Christ of their own God. They do not ask of the strange god, what they recollected they must beg of the Creator—not to be plunged into the Creators abyss. They at last had their request granted. On what ground? Because they had lied? Because they had proclaimed Him to be the Son of a ruthless God? And what sort of god will that be who helped the lying, and upheld his detractors? However, no need of this thought, for, 4234 inasmuch as they had not lied, inasmuch as they had acknowledged that the God of the abyss was also their God, so did He actually Himself affirm that He was the same whom these demons acknowledged—Jesus, the Judge and Son of the avenging God. Now, behold an inkling 4235 of the Creators failings 4236 and infirmities in Christ; for I on my side 4237 mean to impute to Him ignorance. Allow me some indulgence in my effort against the heretic. Jesus is touched by the woman who had an issue of blood, 4238 He knew not by whom. “Who touched me?” He asks, when His disciples alleged an excuse. He even persists in His assertion of ignorance: “Somebody hath touched me,” He says, and advances some proof: “For I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.” What says our heretic? Could Christ have known the person? And why did He speak as if He were ignorant? Why? Surely it was to challenge her faith, and to try her fear. Precisely as He had once questioned Adam, as if in ignorance: Adam, where art thou?” 4239 Thus you have both the Creator excused in the same way as Christ, and Christ acting similarly to 4240 the Creator. But in this case He acted as an adversary of the law; and therefore, as the law forbids contact with a woman with an issue, 4241 He desired not only that this woman should touch Him, but that He should heal her. 4242 Here, p. 380 then, is a God who is not merciful by nature, but in hostility! Yet, if we find that such was the merit of this womans faith, that He said unto her, Thy faith hath saved thee,” 4243 what are you, that you should detect an hostility to the law in that act, which the Lord Himself shows us to have been done as a reward of faith? But will you have it that this faith of the woman consisted in the contempt which she had acquired for the law? Who can suppose, that a woman who had been. hitherto unconscious of any God, uninitiated as yet in any new law, should violently infringe that law by which she was up to this time bound? On what faith, indeed, was such an infringement hazarded? In what God believing? Whom despising? The Creator? Her touch at least was an act of faith. And if of faith in the Creator, how could she have violated His law, 4244 when she was ignorant of any other God? Whatever her infringement of the law amounted to, it proceeded from and was proportionate to her faith in the Creator. But how can these two things be compatible? That she violated the law, and violated it in faith, which ought to have restrained her from such violation? I will tell you how her faith was this above all: 4245 it made her believe that her God preferred mercy even to sacrifice; she was certain that her God was working in Christ; she touched Him, therefore, nor as a holy man simply, nor as a prophet, whom she knew to be capable of contamination by reason of his human nature, but as very God, whom she assumed to be beyond all possibility of pollution by any uncleanness. 4246 She therefore, not without reason, 4247 interpreted for herself the law, as meaning that such things as are susceptible of defilement become defiled, but not so God, whom she knew for certain to be in Christ. But she recollected this also, that what came under the prohibition of the law 4248 was that ordinary and usual issue of blood which proceeds from natural functions every month, and in childbirth, not that which was the result of disordered health. Her case, however, was one of long abounding 4249 ill health, for which she knew that the succour of Gods mercy was needed, and not the natural relief of time. And thus she may evidently be regarded as having discerned 4250 the law, instead of breaking it. This will prove to be the faith which was to confer intelligence likewise. “If ye will not believe,” says (the prophet), “ye shall not understand.” 4251 When Christ approved of the faith of this woman, which simply rested in the Creator, He declared by His answer to her, 4252 that He was Himself the divine object of the faith of which He approved. Nor can I overlook the fact that His garment, by being touched, demonstrated also the truth of His body; for of course” 4253 it was a body, and not a phantom, which the garment clothed. 4254 This indeed is not our point now; but the remark has a natural bearing on the question we are discussing. For if it were not a veritable body, but only a fantastic one, it could not for certain have received contamination, as being an unsubstantial thing. 4255 He therefore, who, by reason of this vacuity of his substance, was incapable of contamination, how could he possibly have desired this touch? 4256 As an adversary of the law, his conduct was deceitful, for he was not susceptible of a real pollution.
Luke viii. 25.378:4217
Et pari utrinque stupore discriminis fixum.378:4219
Josh. iii. 9-17.378:4220
This obscure passage is thus read by Oehler, from whom we have translated: “Lege extorri familiæ dirimendæ in transitu ejus Jordanis machæram fuisse, cujus impetum atque decursum plane et Jesus docuerat prophetis transmeantibus stare.” The machæram (“sword”) is a metaphor for the river. Rigaltius refers to Virgils figure, Æneid, viii. 62, 64, for a justification of the simile. Oehler has altered the reading from the “ex sortefamilæ,” etc., of the mss. to “extorrifamiliæ,” etc. The former reading would mean probably: “Read out of the story of the nation how that Jordan was as a sword to hinder their passage across its stream.” The sorte (or, as yet another variation has it, “et sortes,” “the accounts”) meant the national record, as we have it in the beginning of the book of Joshua. But the passage is almost hopelessly obscure.379:4221
Ps. xxix. 3.379:4224
Hab. iii. 10, according to the Septuagint.379:4225
Nah. i. 4.379:4226
See above, book iii. chap. xiii.379:4227
Luke viii. 30.379:4228
Atque ita ipsum esse.379:4229
Ps. xxiv. 8.379:4230
Luke viii. 28.379:4231
Substantiæ: including these demons.379:4234
Sed enim: the ἀλλὰ γὰρ of the Greek.379:4235
Luke viii. 43-46.379:4239
See above, book iii. chap. xxv.379:4240
Adæquatum: on a par with.379:4241
Lev. xv. 19.379:4242
A Marcionite hypothesis.380:4243
Luke viii. 48.380:4244
Ecquomodo legem ejus irrupit.380:4245
In lege taxari.380:4249
Illa autem redundavit.380:4250
Isa. vii. 9.380:4252
Luke viii. 48.380:4253
Epiphanius, in Hæres. xlii. Refut. 14, has the same remark.380:4255
Qua res vacua.380:4256
In allusion to the Marcionite hypothesis mentioned above.
Next: Christ's Connection with the Creator Shown from Several Incidents in the Old Testament, Compared with St. Luke's Narrative of the Mission of the Disciples. The Feeding of the Multitude. The Confession of St. Peter. Being Ashamed of Christ. This Shame is Only Possible of the True Christ. Marcionite Pretensions Absurd.
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