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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: The Divine Way of Wisdom, and Greatness, and Might. God's Hiding of Himself, and Subsequent Revelation. To Marcion's God Such a Concealment and Manifestation Impossible.  God's Predestination. No Such Prior System of Intention Possible to a God Previously Unknown as Was Marcion's. The Powers of the World Which Crucified Christ. St. Paul, as a Wise Master-Builder, Associated with Prophecy.  Sundry Injunctions of the Apostle Parallel with the Teaching of the Old Testament.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter VI.—The Divine Way of Wisdom, and Greatness, and Might. God’s Hiding of Himself, and Subsequent Revelation. To Marcion’s God Such a Concealment and Manifestation Impossible.  God’s Predestination. No Such Prior System of Intention Possible to a God Previously Unknown as Was Marcion’s. The Powers of the World Which Crucified Christ. St. Paul, as a Wise Master-Builder, Associated with Prophecy.  Sundry Injunctions of the Apostle Parallel with the Teaching of the Old Testament.

By all these statements, therefore, does he show us what God he means, when he says, “We speak the wisdom of God among them that are perfect.” 5426 It is that God who has confounded the wisdom of the wise, who has brought to nought the understanding of the prudent, who has reduced to folly 5427 the world’s wisdom, by choosing its foolish things, and disposing them to the attainment of salvation. This wisdom, he says, once lay hidden in things that were foolish, weak, and lacking in honour; once also was latent under figures, allegories, and enigmatical types; but it was afterwards to be revealed in Christ, who was set “as a light to the Gentiles,” 5428 by the Creator who promised through the mouth of Isaiah that He would discover “the hidden treasures, which eye had not seen.” 5429 Now, that that god should have ever hidden anything who had never made a cover wherein to practise concealment, is in itself a wholly incredible idea. If he existed, concealment of himself was out of the question—to say nothing 5430 of any of his religious ordinances. 5431 The Creator, on the contrary, was as well known in Himself as His ordinances were.  These, we know, were publicly instituted 5432 in Israel; but they lay overshadowed with latent meanings, in which the wisdom of God was concealed, 5433 to be brought to light by and by amongst “the perfect,” when the time should come, but “pre-ordained in the counsels of God before the ages.” 5434 But whose ages, if not the Creator’s? For because ages consist of times, and times are made up of days, and months, and years; since also days, and months, and years are measured by suns, and moons, and stars, which He ordained for this purpose (for “they shall be,” says He, “for signs of the months and the years”), 5435 it clearly follows that the ages belong to the Creator, and that nothing of what was fore-ordained before the ages can be said to be the property of any other being than Him who claims the ages also as His own. Else let Marcion show that the ages belong to his god. He must then also claim the world itself for p. 441 him; for it is in it that the ages are reckoned, the vessel as it were 5436 of the times, as well as the signs thereof, or their order. But he has no such demonstration to show us. I go back therefore to the point, and ask him this question: Why did (his god) fore-ordain our glory before the ages of the Creator? I could understand his having predetermined it before the ages, if he had revealed it at the commencement of time. 5437 But when he does this almost at the very expiration of all the ages 5438 of the Creator, his predestination before the ages, and not rather within the ages, was in vain, because he did not mean to make any revelation of his purpose until the ages had almost run out their course. For it is wholly inconsistent in him to be so forward in planning purposes, who is so backward in revealing them.

In the Creator, however, the two courses were perfectly compatible—both the predestination before the ages and the revelation at the end thereof, because that which He both fore-ordained and revealed He also in the intermediate space of time announced by the pre-ministration of figures, and symbols, and allegories.  But because (the apostle) subjoins, on the subject of our glory, that “none of the princes of this world knew it, for had they known it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory,” 5439 the heretic argues that the princes of this world crucified the Lord (that is, the Christ of the rival god) in order that this blow might even recoil 5440 on the Creator Himself. Any one, however, who has seen from what we have already said how our glory must be regarded as issuing from the Creator, will already have come to the conclusion that, inasmuch as the Creator settled it in His own secret purpose, it properly enough was unknown to all the princes 5441 and powers of the Creator, on the principle that servants are not permitted to know their masters’ plans, much less the fallen angels and the leader of transgression himself, the devil; for I should contend that these, on account of their fall, were greater strangers still to any knowledge of the Creator’s dispensations. But it is no longer open to me 5442 even to interpret the princes and powers of this world as the Creator’s, since the apostle imputes ignorance to them, whereas even the devil according to our Gospel recognised Jesus in the temptation, 5443 and, according to the record which is common to both (Marcionites and ourselves) the evil spirit knew that Jesus was the Holy One of God, and that Jesus was His name, and that He was come to destroy them. 5444 The parable also of the strong man armed, whom a stronger than he overcame and seized his goods, is admitted by Marcion to have reference to the Creator: 5445 therefore the Creator could not have been ignorant any longer of the God of glory, since He is overcome by him; 5446 nor could He have crucified him whom He was unable to cope with. The inevitable inference, therefore, as it seems to me, is that we must believe that the princes and powers of the Creator did knowingly crucify the God of glory in His Christ, with that desperation and excessive malice with which the most abandoned slaves do not even hesitate to slay their masters. For it is written in my Gospel 5447 that “Satan entered into Judas.” 5448 According to Marcion, however, the apostle in the passage under consideration 5449 does not allow the imputation of ignorance, with respect to the Lord of glory, to the powers of the Creator; because, indeed, he will have it that these are not meant by “the princes of this world.”  But (the apostle) evidently 5450 did not speak of spiritual princes; so that he meant secular ones, those of the princely people, (chief in the divine dispensation, although) not, of course, amongst the nations of the world, and their rulers, and king Herod, and even Pilate, and, as represented by him, 5451 that power of Rome which was the greatest in the world, and then presided over by him. Thus the arguments of the other side are pulled down, and our own proofs are thereby built up. But you still maintain that our glory comes from your god, with whom it also lay in secret.  Then why does your god employ the self-same Scripture 5452 which the apostle also relies on? What has your god to do at all with the sayings of the prophets? “Who hath discovered the mind of the Lord, or who hath been His counsellor?” 5453 So says Isaiah. What has he also to do with illustrations from our God? For when (the apostle) calls himself “a wise master-builder,” 5454 we find that the Creator by Isaiah designates the teacher who sketches 5455 out the divine discipline by the same title, “I will take away from Judah the cunning artifip. 442 cer,” 5456 etc. And was it not Paul himself who was there foretold, destined “to be taken away from Judah”—that is, from Judaism—for the erection of Christianity, in order “to lay that only foundation, which is Christ?” 5457 Of this work the Creator also by the same prophet says, “Behold, I lay in Sion for a foundation a precious stone and honourable; and he that resteth thereon shall not be confounded.” 5458 Unless it be, that God professed Himself to be the builder up of an earthly work, that so He might not give any sign of His Christ, as destined to be the foundation of such as believe in Him, upon which every man should build at will the superstructure of either sound or worthless doctrine; forasmuch as it is the Creator’s function, when a man’s work shall be tried by fire, (or) when a reward shall be recompensed to him by fire; because it is by fire that the test is applied to the building which you erect upon the foundation which is laid by Him, that is, the foundation of His Christ. 5459 “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” 5460 Now, since man is the property, and the work, and the image and likeness of the Creator, having his flesh, formed by Him of the ground, and his soul of His afflatus, it follows that Marcion’s god wholly dwells in a temple which belongs to another, if so be we are not the Creator’s temple. But “if any man defile the temple of God, he shall be himself destroyed” 5461 —of course, by the God of the temple. 5462 If you threaten an avenger, you threaten us with the Creator. “Ye must become fools, that ye may be wise.” 5463 Wherefore?  “Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” 5464 With what God? Even if the ancient Scriptures have contributed nothing in support of our view thus far, 5465 an excellent testimony turns up in what (the apostle) here adjoins: “For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness; and again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.” 5466 For in general we may conclude for certain that he could not possibly have cited the authority of that God whom he was bound to destroy, since he would not teach for Him. 5467 “Therefore,” says he, “let no man glory in man;” 5468 an injunction which is in accordance with the teaching of the Creator, “wretched is the man that trusteth in man;” 5469 again, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to confide in man;” 5470 and the same thing is said about glorying (in princes). 5471



1 Cor. 2:6, 7.




Isa. xlii. 6.


Isa. xlv. 3 (Septuagint).






Palam decurrentia.




1 Cor. ii. 7.


Gen. i. 14, inexactly quoted.




Introductione sæculi.


Pæne jam totis sæculis prodactis.


1 Cor. ii. 8.


Ut et hoc recidat.




Sed jam nec mihi competit.


Matt. iv. 1-11.


Luke iv. 34.


In Creatoris accipitur apud Marcionem.


Considered, in the hypothesis, as Marcion’s god.


Apud me.


Luke xxii. 3.


1 Cor. ii. 8.




Et quo.




Isa. xl. 13.


1 Cor. iii. 10.




So the A.V. of Isa. iii. 3; but the Septuagint and St. Paul use the self-same term, σοφὸς ἀρχιτέκτων.


1 Cor. iii. 11.


Isa. xxviii. 16.


We add the original of this sentence: “Nisi si structorem se terreni operis Deus profitebatur, ut non de suo Christo significaret, qui futurus esset fundamentum credentium in eum, super quod prout quisque superstruxerit, dignam scilicet vel indignam doctrinam si opus ejus per ignem probabitur, si merces illi per ignem rependetur, creatoris est, quia per ignem judicatur vestra superædificatio, utique sui fundamenti, id est sui Christi.” Tertullian is arguing upon an hypothesis suggested by Marcion’s withdrawal of his Christ from everything “terrene.” Such a process as is described by St. Paul in this passage, 1 Cor. i. 12-15, must be left to the Creator and His Christ.


1 Cor. iii. 16.


The text has vitiabitur, “shall be defiled.”


1 Cor. iii. 17.


1 Cor. iii. 18.


1 Cor. iii. 19.


The older reading, “adhuc sensum pristina præjudicaverunt,” we have preferred to Oehler’s “ad hunc sensum,” etc.


1 Cor. 3:19, 20, Job 5:13, Ps. 94:11.


Si non illi doceret.


1 Cor. iii. 21.


Jer. xvii. 5.


Ps. cxviii. 8.


Ps. cxviii. 9.

Next: St. Paul's Phraseology Often Suggested by the Jewish Scriptures. Christ Our Passover--A Phrase Which Introduces Us to the Very Heart of the Ancient Dispensation. Christ's True Corporeity. Married and Unmarried States. Meaning of the Time is Short. In His Exhortations and Doctrine, the Apostle Wholly Teaches According to the Mind and Purposes of the God of the Old Testament. Prohibition of Meats and Drinks Withdrawn by the Creator.

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