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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Chapter I.--Preface. Reason for a New Work

The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian

Chapter I.--Preface. Reason for a New Work

Pontus Lends Its Rough Character to the Heretic Marcion, a Native. His Heresy Characterized in a Brief Invective.

Whatever in times past we have wrought in opposition to Marcion, is from the present moment no longer to be accounted of. It is a new work which we are undertaking in lieu of the old one. My original tract, as too hurriedly composed, I had subsequently superseded by a fuller treatise. This latter I lost, before it was completely published, by the fraud of a person who was then a brother, but became afterwards an apostate. He, as it happened, had transcribed a portion of it, full of mistakes, and then published it. The necessity thus arose for an amended work; and the occasion of the new edition induced me to make a considerable addition to the treatise. This present text, therefore, of my work -- which is the third as superseding the second, but henceforward to be considered the first instead of the third -- renders a preface necessary to this issue of the tract itself that no reader may be perplexed, if he should by chance fall in with the various forms of it which are scattered about.

The Euxine Sea, as it is called, is self-contradictory in its nature, and deceptive in its name. As you would not account it hospitable from its situation, so is it severed from our more civilised waters by a certain stigma which attaches to its barbarous character. The fiercest nations inhabit it, if indeed it can be called habitation, when life is passed in waggons. They have no fixed abode; their life has no germ of civilization; they indulge their libidinous desires without restraint, and for the most part naked. Moreover, when they gratify secret lust, they hang up their quivers on their car-yokes, to warn off the curious and rash observer. Thus without a blush do they prostitute their weapons of war. The dead bodies of their parents they cut up with their sheep, and devour at their feasts. They who have not died so as to become food for others, are thought to have died an accursed death. Their women are not by their sex softened to modesty. They uncover the breast, from which they suspend their battle-axes, and prefer warfare to marriage. In their climate, too, there is the same rude nature. The day-time is never clear, the sun never cheerful; the sky is uniformly cloudy; the whole year is wintry; the only wind that blows is the angry North. Waters melt only by fires; their rivers flow not by reason of the ice; their mountains are covered with heaps of snow. All things are torpid, all stiff with cold. Nothing there has the glow of life, but that ferocity which has given to scenic plays their stories of the sacrifices of the Taurians, and the loves of the Colchians, and the torments of the Caucasus. Nothing, however, in Pontus is so barbarous and sad as the fact that Marcion was born there, fouler than any Scythian, more roving than the waggon-life of the Sarmatian, more inhuman than the Massagete, more audacious than an Amazon, darker than the cloud, (of Pontus) colder than its winter, more brittle than its ice, more deceitful than the Ister, more craggy than Caucasus. Nay more, the true Prometheus, Almighty God, is mangled by Marcion's blasphemies. Marcion is more savage than even the beasts of that barbarous region. For what beaver was ever a greater emasculator than he who has abolished the nuptial bond? What Pontic mouse ever had such gnawing powers as he who has gnawed the Gospels to pieces? Verily, O Euxine, thou hast produced a monster more credible to philosophers than to Christians. For the cynic Diogenes used to go about, lantern in hand, at mid-day to find a man; whereas Marcion has quenched the light of his faith, and so lost the God whom he had found. His disciples will not deny that his first faith he held along with ourselves; a letter of his own proves this; so that for the future a heretic may from his case be designated as one who, forsaking that which was prior, afterwards chose out for himself that which was not in times past. For in as far as what was delivered in times past and from the beginning will be held as truth, in so far will that be accounted heresy which is brought in later. But another brief treatise will maintain this position against heretics, who ought to be refuted even without a consideration of their doctrines, on the ground that they are heretical by reason of the novelty of their opinions. Now, so far as any controversy is to be admitted, I will for the time (lest our compendious principle of novelty, being called in on all occasions to our aid, should be imputed to want of confidence) begin with setting forth our adversary's rule of belief, that it may escape no one what our main contention is to be.

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