Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: Figurative Style of Certain Messianic Prophecies in the Psalms. Military Metaphors Applied to Christ.
Chapter XIV.—Figurative Style of Certain Messianic Prophecies in the Psalms. Military Metaphors Applied to Christ.
This interpretation of ours will derive confirmation, when, on your supposing that Christ is in any passage called a warrior, from the mention of certain arms and expressions of that sort, you weigh well the analogy of their other meanings, and draw your conclusions accordingly. “Gird on Thy sword,” says David, “upon Thy thigh.” 3286 But what do you read about Christ just before? “Thou art fairer p. 333 than the children of men; grace is poured forth upon Thy lips.” 3287 It amuses me to imagine that blandishments of fair beauty and graceful lips are ascribed to one who had to gird on His sword for war! So likewise, when it is added, “Ride on prosperously in Thy majesty,” 3288 the reason is subjoined: “Because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness.” 3289 But who shall produce these results with the sword, and not their opposites rather—deceit, and harshness, and injury—which, it must be confessed, are the proper business of battles? Let us see, therefore, whether that is not some other sword, which has so different an action. Now the Apostle John, in the Apocalypse, describes a sword which proceeded from the mouth of God as “a doubly sharp, two-edged one.” 3290 This may be understood to be the Divine Word, who is doubly edged with the two testaments of the law and the gospel—sharpened with wisdom, hostile to the devil, arming us against the spiritual enemies of all wickedness and concupiscence, and cutting us off from the dearest objects for the sake of Gods holy name. If, however, you will not acknowledge John, you have our common master Paul, who “girds our loins about with truth, and puts on us the breastplate of righteousness, and shoes us with the preparation of the gospel of peace, not of war; who bids us take the shield of faith, wherewith we may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the devil, and the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which (he says) is the word of God.” 3291 This sword the Lord Himself came to send on earth, and not peace. 3292 If he is your Christ, then even he is a warrior. If he is not a warrior, and the sword he brandishes is an allegorical one, then the Creators Christ in the psalm too may have been girded with the figurative sword of the Word, without any martial gear. The above-mentioned “fairness” of His beauty and “grace of His lips” would quite suit such a sword, girt as it even then was upon His thigh in the passage of David, and sent as it would one day be by Him on earth. For this is what He says: “Ride on prosperously in Thy majesty 3293 ”—advancing His word into every land, so as to call all nations: destined to prosper in the success of that faith which received Him, and reigning, from the fact that 3294 He conquered death by His resurrection. “Thy right hand,” says He, “shall wonderfully lead Thee forth,” 3295 even the might of Thy spiritual grace, whereby the knowledge of Christ is spread. “Thine arrows are sharp;” 3296 everywhere Thy precepts fly about, Thy threatenings also, and convictions 3297 of heart, pricking and piercing each conscience. “The people shall fall under Thee,” 3298 that is, in adoration. Thus is the Creators Christ mighty in war, and a bearer of arms; thus also does He now take the spoils, not of Samaria alone, but of all nations. Acknowledge, then, that His spoils are figurative, since you have learned that His arms are allegorical. Since, therefore, both the Lord speaks and His apostle writes such things 3299 in a figurative style, we are not rash in using His interpretations, the records 3300 of which even our adversaries admit; and thus in so far will it be Isaiahs Christ who has come, in as far as He was not a warrior, because it is not of such a character that He is described by Isaiah.
Ps. xlv. 3.333:3287
Ps. xlv. 2.333:3288
Literally, “Advance, and prosper, and reign.”333:3289
Ps. xlv. 4.333:3290
Rev. i. 16.333:3291
Eph. vi. 14-17.333:3292
Matt. x. 34.333:3293
“Advance, and prosper, and reign.”333:3294
Ps. xlv. 4, but changed.333:3296
Ps. xlv. 5.333:3297
Ps. xlv. 5.333:3299
Next: The Title Christ Suitable as a Name of the Creator's Son, But Unsuited to Marcion's Christ.
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