The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian
Chapter IX.--Marcion's Gnostic Pretensions Vain, for the True God is Neither Unknown Nor Uncertain The Creator, Whom He Owns to Be God, Alone Supplies an Induction, by Which to Judge of the True God.
Now I know full well by what perceptive faculty they boast of their new god; even their knowledge. It is, however, this very discovery of a novel thing -- so striking to common minds -- as well as the natural gratification which is inherent in novelty, that I wanted to refute, and thence further to challenge a proof of this unknown god. For him whom by their knowledge they present to us as new, they prove to have been unknown previous to that knowledge. Let us keep within the strict limits and measure of our argument. Convince me there could have been an unknown god. I find, no doubt, that altars have been lavished on unknown gods; that, however, is the idolatry of Athens. And on uncertain gods; but that, too, is only Roman superstition. Furthermore, uncertain gods are not well known, because no certainty about them exists; and because of this uncertainty they are therefore unknown. Now, which of these two titles shall we carve for Marcion's god? Both, I suppose, as for a being who is still uncertain, and was formerly unknown. For inasmuch as the Creator, being a known God, caused him to be unknown; so, as being a certain God, he made him to be uncertain. But I will not go so far out of my way, as to say: If God was unknown and concealed, He was overshadowed in such a region of darkness, as must have been itself new and unknown, and be even now likewise uncertain -- some immense region indeed, one undoubtedly greater than the God whom it concealed. But I will briefly state my subject, and afterwards most fully pursue it, promising that God neither could have been, nor ought to have been, unknown. Could not have been, because of His greatness; ought not to have been, because of His goodness, especially as He is (supposed, by Marcion) more excellent in both these attributes than our Creator. Since, however, I observe that in some points the proof of every new and heretofore unknown god ought, for its test, to be compared to the form of the Creator, it will be my duty first of all to show that this very course is adopted by me in a settled plan, such as I might with greater confidence use in support of my argument. Before every other consideration, (let me ask) how it happens that you, who acknowledge the Creator to be God, and from your knowledge confess Him to be prior in existence, do not know that the other god should be examined by you in exactly the same course of investigation which has taught you how to find out a god in the first case? Every prior thing has furnished the rule for the latter. In the present question two gods are propounded, the unknown and the known. Concerning the known there is no question. It is plain that He exists, else He would not be known. The dispute is concerning the unknown god. Possibly he has no existence; because, if he had, he would have been known. Now that which, so long as it is unknown, is an object to be questioned, is an uncertainty so long as it remains thus questionable; and all the while it is in this state of uncertainty, it possibly has no existence at all. You have a god who is so far certain, as he is known; and uncertain, as unknown. This being the case, does it appear to you to be justly defensible, that uncertainties should be submitted for proof to the rule, and form, and standard of certainties? Now, if to the subject before us, which is in itself full of uncertainty thus far, there be applied also arguments derived from uncertainties, we shall be involved in such a series of questions arising out of our treatment of these same uncertain arguments, as shall by reason of their uncertainty be dangerous to the faith, and we shall drift into those insoluble questions which the apostle has no affection for. If, again, in things wherein there is found a diversity of condition, they shall prejudge, as no doubt they will, uncertain, doubtful, and intricate points, by the certain, undoubted, and clear sides of their rule, it will probably happen that (those points) will not be submitted to the standard of certainties for determination, as being freed by the diversity of their essential condition from the application of such a standard in all other respects. As, therefore, it is two gods which are the subject of our proposition, their essential condition must be the same in both. For, as concerns their divinity, they are both unbegotten, unmade, eternal. This will be their essential condition. All other points Marcion himself seems to have made light of, for he has placed them in a different category. They are subsequent in the order of treatment; indeed, they will not have to be brought into the discussion, since on the essential condition there is no dispute. Now there is this absence of our dispute, because they are both of them gods. Those things, therefore, whose community of condition is evident, will, when brought to a test on the ground of that common condition, have to be submitted, although they are uncertain, to the standard of those certainties with which they are classed in the community of their essential condition, so as on this account to share also in their manner of proof. I shall therefore contend with the greatest confidence that he is not God who is to-day uncertain, because he has been hitherto unknown; for of whomsoever it is evident that he is God, from this very fact it is (equally) evident, that he never has been unknown, and therefore never uncertain.