Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: Other Objections Considered. God's Condescension in the Incarnation. Nothing Derogatory to the Divine Being in This Economy. The Divine Majesty Worthily Sustained by the Almighty Father, Never Visible to Man. Perverseness of the Marcionite Cavils.
Chapter XXVII.—Other Objections Considered. Gods Condescension in the Incarnation. Nothing Derogatory to the Divine Being in This Economy. The Divine Majesty Worthily Sustained by the Almighty Father, Never Visible to Man. Perverseness of the Marcionite Cavils.
And now, that I may briefly pass in review 3044 the other points which you have thus far been engaged in collecting, as mean, weak, and unworthy, for demolishing 3045 the Creator, I will propound them in a simple and definite statement: 3046 that God would have been unable to hold any intercourse with men, if He had not taken on Himself the emotions and affections of man, by means of which He could temper the strength of His majesty, which would no doubt have been incapable of endurance to the moderate capacity of man, by such a humiliation as was indeed degrading 3047 to Himself, but necessary for man, and such as on this very account became worthy of God, because nothing is so worthy of God as the salvation of man. If I were arguing with heathens, I should dwell more at length on this point; although with heretics too the discussion does not stand on very different grounds. Inasmuch as ye yourselves have now come to the belief that God moved about 3048 in the form and all other circumstances of mans nature, 3049 you will of course no longer require to be convinced that God conformed Himself to humanity, but feel yourselves bound by your own faith. For if the God (in whom ye believe,) even from His higher condition, prostrated the supreme dignity of His majesty to such a lowliness as to undergo death, even the death of the cross, why can you not suppose that some humiliations 3050 are becoming to our God also, only more tolerable than Jewish contumelies, and crosses, 3051 and sepulchres? Are these the humiliations which henceforth are to raise a prejudice against Christ (the subject as He is of human passions 3052 ) being a partaker of that Godhead 3053 against which you make the participation in human qualities a reproach? Now we believe that Christ did ever act in the name of God the Father; that He actually 3054 from the beginning held intercourse with (men); actually 3055 communed with 3056 patriarchs and prophets; was the Son of the Creator; was His Word; whom God made His Son 3057 by emitting Him from His own self, 3058 and thenceforth set Him over every dispensation and (administration of) His will, 3059 making Him a little lower than the angels, as is written in David. 3060 In which lowering of His condition He received from the Father a dispensation in those very respects which you blame as human; from the very beginning learning, 3061 even then, (that state of a) man which He was destined in the end to become. 3062 It is He p. 319 who descends, He who interrogates, He who demands, He who swears. With regard, however, to the Father, the very gospel which is common to us will testify that He was never visible, according to the word of Christ: “No man knoweth the Father, save the Son.” 3063 For even in the Old Testament He had declared, “No man shall see me, and live.” 3064 He means that the Father is invisible, in whose authority and in whose name was He God who appeared as the Son of God. But with us 3065 Christ is received in the person of Christ, because even in this manner is He our God. Whatever attributes therefore you require as worthy of God, must be found in the Father, who is invisible and unapproachable, and placid, and (so to speak) the God of the philosophers; whereas those qualities which you censure as unworthy must be supposed to be in the Son, who has been seen, and heard, and encountered, the Witness and Servant of the Father, uniting in Himself man and God, God in mighty deeds, in weak ones man, in order that He may give to man as much as He takes from God. What in your esteem is the entire disgrace of my God, is in fact the sacrament of mans salvation. God held converse with man, that man might learn to act as God. God dealt on equal terms 3066 with man, that man might be able to deal on equal terms with God. God was found little, that man might become very great. You who disdain such a God, I hardly know whether you ex fidebelieve that God was crucified. How great, then, is your perversity in respect of the two characters of the Creator! You designate Him as Judge, and reprobate as cruelty that severity of the Judge which only acts in accord with the merits of cases. You require God to be very good, and yet despise as meanness that gentleness of His which accorded with His kindness, (and) held lowly converse in proportion to the mediocrity of mans estate. He pleases you not, whether great or little, neither as your judge nor as your friend! What if the same features should be discovered in your God? That He too is a judge, we have already shown in the proper section: 3067 that from being a judge He must needs be severe; and from being severe He must also be cruel, if indeed cruel. 3068
i.e., the sensations of our emotional nature.318:3053
On this mode of the eternal generation of the Son from the Father, as the Λόγος προφορικός, the reader is referred for much patristic information to Bp. Bulls Defensio Fid. Nic. (trans. in Anglo-Cath. Library by the translator of this work).318:3058
Proferendo ex semet ipso.318:3059
Ps. viii. 6.318:3061
Ediscens, “practising” or “rehearsing.”318:3062
This doctrine of theology is more fully expressed by our author in a fine passage in his Treatise against Praxeas, xvi. (Oehler, vol. ii. p. 674), of which the translator gave this version in Bp. Bulls Def. Nic. Creed, vol. i. p. 18: “The Son hath executed judgment from the beginning, throwing down the haughty tower, and dividing the tongues, punishing the whole world by the violence of waters, raining upon Sodom and Gomorrha fire and brimstone the Lord from the Lord. For he it was who at all times came down to hold converse with men, from Adam on to the patriarchs and the prophets, in vision, in dream, in mirror, in dark saying; ever from the beginning laying the foundation of the course (of His dispensations), which He meant to follow out unto the end. Thus was He ever learning (practising or rehearsing); and the God who conversed with men upon earth could be no other than the Word, which was to be made flesh. But He was thus learning (or rehearsing, ediscebat) in order to level for us the way of faith, that we might the more readily believe that the Son of God had come down into the world, if we knew that in times past also something similar had been done.” The original thus opens: “Filius itaque est qui ab initio judicavit.” This the author connects with John 3:35, Matt. 28:18, John 5:22. The “judgment” is dispensational from the first to the last. Every judicial function of Gods providence from Eden to the judgment day is administered by the Son of God. This office of judge has been largely dealt with in its general view by Tertullian, in this book ii. against Marcion (see chap. xi.–xvii.).319:3063
Matt. xi. 27.319:3064
Ex. xxxiii. 20.319:3065
Penes nos. Christians, not Marcionites. [Could our author have regarded himself as formally at war with the church, at this time?]319:3066
Ex æquo agebat.319:3067
In the 1st book, 25th and following chapters.319:3068
Next: The Tables Turned Upon Marcion, by Contrasts, in Favour of the True God.
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