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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: The Doctrine of the Resurrection. The Body Will Rise Again. Christ's Judicial Character. Jewish Perversions of Prophecy Exposed and Confuted. Messianic Psalms Vindicated. Jewish and Rationalistic Interpretations on This Point Similar.  Jesus--Not Hezekiah or Solomon--The Subject of These Prophecies in the Psalms. None But He is the Christ of the Old and the New Testaments.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter IX.—The Doctrine of the Resurrection. The Body Will Rise Again. Christ’s Judicial Character. Jewish Perversions of Prophecy Exposed and Confuted. Messianic Psalms Vindicated. Jewish and Rationalistic Interpretations on This Point Similar.  Jesus—Not Hezekiah or Solomon—The Subject of These Prophecies in the Psalms. None But He is the Christ of the Old and the New Testaments.

Meanwhile the Marcionite will exhibit nothing of this kind; he is by this time afraid to say which side has the better right to a Christ who is not yet revealed. Just as my Christ is to be expected, 5581 who was predicted from the beginning, so his Christ therefore has no existence, as not having been announced from the beginning. Ours is a better faith, which believes in a future Christ, than the heretic’s, which has none at all to believe in. Touching the resurrection of the dead, 5582 let us first inquire how some persons then denied it. No doubt in the same way in which it is even now denied, since the resurrection of the flesh has at all times men to deny it. But many wise men claim for the soul a divine nature, and are confident of its undying destiny, and even the multitude worship the dead 5583 in the presumption which they boldly entertain that their souls survive. As for our bodies, however, it is manifest that they perish either at once by fire or the wild beasts, 5584 or even when most carefully kept by length of time. When, therefore, the apostle refutes those who deny the resurrection of the flesh, he indeed defends, in opposition to them, the precise matter of their denial, that is, the resurrection of the body. You have the whole answer wrapped up in this. 5585 All the rest is superfluous. Now in this very point, which is called the resurrection of the dead, it is requisite that the proper force of the words should be accurately maintained. 5586 The word dead expresses simply what has lost the vital principle, 5587 by means of which it used to live. Now the body is that which loses life, and as the result of losing it becomes dead. To the body, therefore, the term dead is only suitable. Moreover, as resurrection accrues to what is dead, and dead is a term applicable only to a body, therefore the body alone has a resurrection incidental to it. So again the word Resurrection, or (rising again), embraces only that which has fallen down. “To rise,” indeed, can be predicated of that which has never fallen down, but had already been always lying down. But “to rise again” is predicable only of that which has fallen down; because it is by rising again, in consequence of its having fallen down, that it is said to have re-risen. 5588 For the syllable RE always implies iteration (or happening again). We say, therefore, that the body falls to the ground by death, as indeed facts themselves show, in accordance with the law of God. For to the body it was said, (“Till thou return to the ground, for out of it wast thou taken; for) dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” 5589 That, therefore, which came from the ground shall return to the ground. Now that falls down which returns to the ground; and that rises again which falls down. “Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection.” 5590 Here in the word man, who consists of bodily substance, as we have often shown already, is presented to me the body of Christ.  But if we are all so made alive in Christ, as we die in Adam, it follows of necessity that we are made alive in Christ as a bodily substance, since we died in Adam as a bodily substance. The similarity, indeed, is not complete, unless our revival 5591 in Christ concur in identity p. 448 of substance with our mortality 5592 in Adam. But at this point 5593 (the apostle) has made a parenthetical statement 5594 concerning Christ, which, bearing as it does on our present discussion, must not pass unnoticed. For the resurrection of the body will receive all the better proof, in proportion as I shall succeed in showing that Christ belongs to that God who is believed to have provided this resurrection of the flesh in His dispensation. When he says, “For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet,” 5595 we can see at once 5596 from this statement that he speaks of a God of vengeance, and therefore of Him who made the following promise to Christ:  “Sit Thou at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool. The rod of Thy strength shall the Lord send forth from Sion, and He shall rule along with Thee in the midst of Thine enemies.” 5597 It is necessary for me to lay claim to those Scriptures which the Jews endeavour to deprive us of, and to show that they sustain my view. Now they say that this Psalm 5598 was a chant in honour of Hezekiah, 5599 because “he went up to the house of the Lord,” 5600 and God turned back and removed his enemies.  Therefore, (as they further hold,) those other words, “Before the morning star did I beget thee from the womb,” 5601 are applicable to Hezekiah, and to the birth of Hezekiah. We on our side 5602 have published Gospels (to the credibility of which we have to thank 5603 them 5604 for having given some confirmation, indeed, already in so great a subject 5605 ); and these declare that the Lord was born at night, that so it might be “before the morning star,” as is evident both from the star especially, and from the testimony of the angel, who at night announced to the shepherds that Christ had at that moment been born, 5606 and again from the place of the birth, for it is towards night that persons arrive at the (eastern) “inn.” Perhaps, too, there was a mystic purpose in Christ’s being born at night, destined, as He was, to be the light of the truth amidst the dark shadows of ignorance. Nor, again, would God have said, “I have begotten Thee,” except to His true Son.  For although He says of all the people (Israel), “I have begotten 5607 children,” 5608 yet He added not “from the womb.” Now, why should He have added so superfluously this phrase “from the womb” (as if there could be any doubt about any one’s having been born from the womb), unless the Holy Ghost had wished the words to be with especial care 5609 understood of Christ? “I have begotten Thee from the womb,” that is to say, from a womb only, without a man’s seed, making it a condition of a fleshly body 5610 that it should come out of a womb. What is here added (in the Psalm), “Thou art a priest for ever,” 5611 relates to (Christ) Himself. Hezekiah was no priest; and even if he had been one, he would not have been a priest for ever. “After the order,” says He, “of Melchizedek.” Now what had Hezekiah to do with Melchizedek, the priest of the most high God, and him uncircumcised too, who blessed the circumcised Abraham, after receiving from him the offering of tithes? To Christ, however, “the order of Melchizedek” will be very suitable; for Christ is the proper and legitimate High Priest of God. He is the Pontiff of the priesthood of the uncircumcision, constituted such, even then, for the Gentiles, by whom He was to be more fully received, although at His last coming He will favour with His acceptance and blessing the circumcision also, even the race of Abraham, which by and by is to acknowledge Him. Well, then, there is also another Psalm, which begins with these words: “Give Thy judgments, O God, to the King,” that is, to Christ who was to come as King, “and Thy righteousness unto the King’s son,” 5612 that is, to Christ’s people; for His p. 449 sons are they who are born again in Him. But it will here be said that this Psalm has reference to Solomon.  However, will not those portions of the Psalm which apply to Christ alone, be enough to teach us that all the rest, too, relates to Christ, and not to Solomon? “He shall come down,” says He, “like rain upon a fleece, 5613 and like dropping showers upon the earth,” 5614 describing His descent from heaven to the flesh as gentle and unobserved. 5615 Solomon, however, if he had indeed any descent at all, came not down like a shower, because he descended not from heaven. But I will set before you more literal points. 5616 “He shall have dominion,” says the Psalmist, “from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” 5617 To Christ alone was this given; whilst Solomon reigned over only the moderately-sized kingdom of Judah. “Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him.” Whom, indeed, shall they all thus worship, except Christ? “All nations shall serve Him.” 5618 To whom shall all thus do homage, but Christ? “His name shall endure for ever.” Whose name has this eternity of fame, but Christ’s? “Longer than the sun shall His name remain,” for longer than the sun shall be the Word of God, even Christ. “And in Him shall all nations be blessed.” 5619 In Solomon was no nation blessed; in Christ every nation. And what if the Psalm proves Him to be even God? “They shall call Him blessed.” 5620 (On what ground?) Because blessed is the Lord God of Israel, who only doeth wonderful things.” 5621Blessed also is His glorious name, and with His glory shall all the earth be filled.” 5622 On the contrary, Solomon (as I make bold to affirm) lost even the glory which he had from God, seduced by his love of women even into idolatry. And thus, the statement which occurs in about the middle of this Psalm, “His enemies shall lick the dust” 5623 (of course, as having been, (to use the apostle’s phrase,) “put under His feet” 5624 ), will bear upon the very object which I had in view, when I both introduced the Psalm, and insisted on my opinion of its sense,—namely, that I might demonstrate both the glory of His kingdom and the subjection of His enemies in pursuance of the Creator’s own plans, with the view of laying down 5625 this conclusion, that none but He can be believed to be the Christ of the Creator.



He here argues, as it will be readily observed, from the Marcionite theory alluded to, near the end of the last chapter.


1 Cor. xv. 12.


See his treatise, De Resur. Carnis, chap. i. (Oehler).


An allusion to the deaths of martyrs.








The reader will readily see how the English fails to complete the illustration with the ease of the Latin, “surgere,” “iterum surgere,” “resurgere.”


Gen. iii. 19. [“Was not said unto the Soul”—says our own Longfellow, in corresponding words.]


1 Cor. xv. 21.








Interposuit aliquid.


1 Cor. 15:25, 27.


Jam quidem.


Ps. 110:1, 2, Ps. 8:6.


Ps. cx.


In Ezechiam cecinisse.


2 Kings xix. 14; but the words are, “quia is sederit ad dexteram templi,” a sentence which occurs neither in the LXX. nor the original.


Tertullian, as usual, argues from the Septuagint, which in the latter clause of Ps. cx. 3 has ἐκ γαστρὸς πρὸ ἑωσφόρου ἐγέννησά σε; and so the Vulgate version has it. This Psalm has been variously applied by the Jews. Raschi (or Rabbi Sol. Jarchi) thinks it is most suitable to Abraham, and possibly to David, in which latter view D. Kimchi agrees with him.  Others find in Solomon the best application; but more frequently is Hezekiah thought to be the subject of the Psalm, as Tertullian observes. Justin Martyr (in Dial. cum Tryph.) also notices this application of the Psalm. But Tertullian in the next sentence appears to recognize the sounder opinion of the older Jews, who saw in this Ps. cx. a prediction of Messiah.  This opinion occurs in the Jerusalem Talmud, in the tract Berachoth, 5. Amongst the more recent Jews who also hold the sounder view, may be mentioned Rabbi Saadias Gaon, on Dan. vii. 13, and R. Moses Hadarsan [singularly enough quoted by Raschi in another part of his commentary (Gen. xxxv. 8)], with others who are mentioned by Wetstein, On the New Testament, Matt. xxii. 44. Modern Jews, such as Moses Mendelsohn, reject the Messianic sense; and they are followed by the commentators of the Rationalist school amongst ourselves and in Germany. J. Olshausen, after Hitzig, comes down in his interpretation of the Psalm as late as the Maccabees, and sees a suitable accomplishment of its words in the honours heaped upon Jonathan by Alexander son of Antiochus Epiphanes (see 1 Macc. x. 20). For the refutation of so inadequate a commentary, the reader is referred to Delitzch on Ps. cx. The variations of opinion, however, in this school, are as remarkable as the fluctuations of the Jewish writers. The latest work on the Psalms which has appeared amongst us (Psalms, chronologically arranged, by four Friends), after Ewald, places the accomplishment of Ps. cx. in what may be allowed to have been its occasion—David’s victories over the neighboring heathen.






Istos: that is, the Jews (Rigalt.).


Utique jam in tanto opere.


Natum esse quum maxime.


Generavi: Sept. ἐγέννησα.


Isa. i. 2.




Deputans carni: a note against Docetism.


Ps. cx. 4.


Ps. lxxii. 1.


Super vellus: so Sept. ἐπὶ πόκον.


Ps. lxxii. 6.


Similarly the Rabbis Saadias Gaon and Hadarsan, above mentioned in our note, beautifully applied to Messiah’s placid birth, “without a human father,” the figures of Ps. cx. 3, “womb of the morning,” “dew of thy birth.”




Ps. lxx. 8.


Ps. lxx. 11.


Ps. lxx. 17.


Ps. lxx. 17.


Ps. lxx. 18.


Ps. lxx. 19.


Ps. lxx. 9.


1 Cor. 15:25, 27.



Next: Doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body, Continued. How are the Dead Raised? and with What Body Do They Come? These Questions Answered in Such a Sense as to Maintain the Truth of the Raised Body, Against Marcion. Christ as the Second Adam Connected with the Creator of the First Man.  Let Us Bear the Image of the Heavenly.  The Triumph Over Death in Accordance with the Prophets. Hosea and St. Paul Compared.

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