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Tertullian: Part II: Christ's Word, Seek, and Ye Shall Find, No Warrant for Heretical Deviations from the Faith. All Christ's Words to the Jews are for Us, Not Indeed as Specific Commands, But as Principles to Be Applied.
p. 247 Chapter VIII.—Christs Word, Seek, and Ye Shall Find, No Warrant for Heretical Deviations from the Faith. All Christs Words to the Jews are for Us, Not Indeed as Specific Commands, But as Principles to Be Applied.
I come now to the point which (is urged both by our own brethren and by the heretics). Our brethren adduce it as a pretext for entering on curious inquiries, 1930 and the heretics insist on it for importing the scrupulosity (of their unbelief). 1931 It is written, they say, “Seek, and ye shall find.” 1932 Let us remember at what time the Lord said this. I think it was at the very outset of His teaching, when there was still a doubt felt by all whether He were the Christ, and when even Peter had not yet declared Him to be the Son of God, and John (Baptist) had actually ceased to feel assurance about Him. 1933 With good reason, therefore, was it then said, “Seek, and ye shall find,” when inquiry was still be to made of Him who was not yet become known. Besides, this was said in respect of the Jews. For it is to them that the whole matter 1934 of this reproof 1935 pertains, seeing that they had (a revelation) where they might seek Christ.
“They have,” says He, “Moses and Elias,” 1936 —in other words, the law and the prophets, which preach Christ; as also in another place He says plainly, “Search the Scriptures, in which ye expect (to find) salvation; for they testify of me;” 1937 which will be the meaning of “Seek, and ye shall find.” For it is clear that the next words also apply to the Jews: “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” 1938 The Jews had formerly been in covenant with 1939 God; but being afterwards cast off on account of their sins, they began to be 1940 without God. The Gentiles, on the contrary, had never been in covenant with God; they were only as “a drop from a bucket,” and “as dust from the threshing floor,” 1941 and were ever outside the door. Now, how shall he who was always outside knock at the place where he never was? What door does he know of, when he has passed through none, either by entrance or ejection? Is it not rather he who is aware that he once lived within and was thrust out, that (probably) found the door and knocked thereat? In like manner, “Ask, and ye shall receive,” 1942 is suitably said 1943 to one who was aware from whom he ought to ask,—by whom also some promise had been given; that is to say, “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.” Now, the Gentiles knew nothing either of Him, or of any of His promises. Therefore it was to Israel that he spake when He said, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 1944 Not yet had He “cast to the dogs the childrens bread;” 1945 not yet did He charge them to “go into the way of the Gentiles.” 1946 It is only at the last that He instructs them to “go and teach all nations, and baptize them,” 1947 when they were so soon to receive “the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, who should guide them into all the truth.” 1948 And this, too, makes towards the same conclusion. If the apostles, who were ordained 1949 to be teachers to the Gentiles, were themselves to have the Comforter for their teacher, far more needless 1950 was it to say to us, “Seek, and ye shall find,” to whom was to come, without research, 1951 our instruction 1952 by the apostles, and to the apostles themselves by the Holy Ghost. All the Lords sayings, indeed, are set forth for all men; through the ears of the Jews have they passed on to us. Still most of them were addressed to Jewish persons; 1953 they therefore did not constitute instruction properly designed 1954 for ourselves, but rather an example. 1955
Matt. vii. 7.247:1933
See our translation of the Anti-Marcion, iv. 18 (infra), and Tertullians treatise, de Bapt. x.247:1934
Luke xvi. 29.247:1937
John v. 39.247:1938
Matt. vii. 7.247:1939
Or, “were for the first time.”247:1941
Isa. xl. 15.247:1942
Matt. vii. 7.247:1943
Matt. xv. 24.247:1945
Matt. x. 5.247:1947
Matt. xxviii. 19.247:1948
John xvi. 13.247:1949
Multo magis vacabat.247:1951
In personas, i.e., Judæorum (Oehler).247:1954
“That is, not a specific command” primarily meant for us, but a principle “to be applied by us” (Dodgson).
Next: The Research After Definite Truth Enjoined on Us. When We Have Discovered This, We Should Be Content.
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