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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: Chapter I

Early Church Fathers  Index     

p. 521 V.

On the Flesh of Christ. 6939

This was written by our author in confutation of certain heretics who denied the reality of Christ’s flesh, or at least its identity with human flesh—fearing that, if they admitted the reality of Christ’s flesh, they must also admit his resurrection in the flesh; and, consequently, the resurrection of the human body after death.

[Translated by Dr. Holmes.]


Chapter I.—The General Purport of This Work. The Heretics, Marcion, Apelles, and Valentinus, Wishing to Impugn the Doctrine of the Resurrection, Deprive Christ of All Capacity for Such a Change by Denying His Flesh.

They who are so anxious to shake that belief in the resurrection which was firmly settled 6940 before the appearance of our modern Sadducees, 6941 as even to deny that the expectation thereof has any relation whatever to the flesh, have great cause for besetting the flesh of Christ also with doubtful questions, as if it either had no existence at all, or possessed a nature altogether different from human flesh. For they cannot but be apprehensive that, if it be once determined that Christ’s flesh was human, a presumption would immediately arise in opposition to them, that that flesh must by all means rise again, which has already risen in Christ. Therefore we shall have to guard our belief in the resurrection 6942 from the same armoury, whence they get their weapons of destruction. Let us examine our Lord’s bodily substance, for about His spiritual nature all are agreed. 6943 It is His flesh that is in question. Its verity and quality are the points in dispute. Did it ever exist? whence was it derived? and of what kind was it? If we succeed in demonstrating it, we shall lay down a law for our own resurrection. Marcion, in order that he might deny the flesh of Christ, denied also His nativity, or else he denied His flesh in order that he might deny His nativity; because, of course, he was afraid that His nativity and His flesh bore mutual testimony to each other’s reality, since there is no nativity without flesh, and no flesh without nativity. As if indeed, under the prompting of that licence which is ever the same in all heresy, he too might not very well have either denied the nativity, although admitting the flesh,—like Apelles, who was first a disciple of his, and afterwards an apostate,—or, while admitting both the flesh and the nativity, have interpreted them in a different sense, as did Valentinus, who resembled Apelles both in his discipleship and desertion of Marcion. At all events, he who represented the flesh of Christ to be imaginary was equally able to pass off His nativity as a phantom; so that the virgin’s conception, and pregnancy, and child-bearing, and then the whole course 6944 of her infant too, would have to be regarded as putative. 6945 These facts pertaining to the nativity of Christ would escape the notice of the same eyes and the same senses as failed to grasp the full idea 6946 of His flesh.



In his work On the Resurrection of the Flesh (chap. ii.), Tertullian refers to this tract, and calls it “De Carne Domini adversus quatuor hæreses”: the four heresies being those of Marcion, Apelles, Basilides, and Valentinus. Pamelius, indeed, designates the tract by this fuller title instead of the usual one, “De Carne Christi.” [This tract contains references to works written while our author was Montanistic, but it contains no positive Montanism. It should not be dated earlier than a.d. 207.]




The allusion is to Matt. xxii. 23; comp. De Præscr. Hæret. 33 (Fr. Junius).


Tertullian’s phrase is “carnis vota”—the future prospects of the flesh.


Certum est.




Τῷ δοκεῖν haberentur. This term gave name to the Docetic errors.



Next: Marcion, Who Would Blot Out the Record of Christ's Nativity, is Rebuked for So Startling a Heresy.

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