The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian
Chapter XIV.--Figurative Style of Certain Messianic Prophecies in the Psalms Military Metaphors Applied to Christ.
This interpretation of ours will derive confirmation, when, on your supposing that Christ is in any passage called a warrior, from the mention of certain arms and expressions of that sort, you weigh well the analogy of their other meanings, and draw your conclusions accordingly. |Gird on Thy sword,| says David, |upon Thy thigh.| But what do you read about Christ just before? |Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured forth upon Thy lips.| It amuses me to imagine that blandishments of fair beauty and graceful lips are ascribed to one who had to gird on His sword for war! So likewise, when it is added, |Ride on prosperously in Thy majesty,| the reason is subjoined: |Because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness.| But who shall produce these results with the sword, and not their opposites rather -- deceit, and harshness, and injury -- which, it must be confessed, are the proper business of battles? Let us see, therefore, whether that is not some other sword, which has so different an action. Now the Apostle John, in the Apocalypse, describes a sword which proceeded from the mouth of God as |a doubly sharp, two-edged one.| This may be understood to be the Divine Word, who is doubly edged with the two testaments of the law and the gospel -- sharpened with wisdom, hostile to the devil, arming us against the spiritual enemies of all wickedness and concupiscence, and cutting us off from the dearest objects for the sake of God's holy name. If, however, you will not acknowledge John, you have our common master Paul, who |girds our loins about with truth, and puts on us the breastplate of righteousness, and shoes us with the preparation of the gospel of peace, not of war; who bids us take the shield of faith, wherewith we may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the devil, and the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which (he says) is the word of God.| This sword the Lord Himself came to send on earth, and not peace. If he is your Christ, then even he is a warrior. If he is not a warrior, and the sword he brandishes is an allegorical one, then the Creator's Christ in the psalm too may have been girded with the figurative sword of the Word, without any martial gear. The above-mentioned |fairness| of His beauty and |grace of His lips| would quite suit such a sword, girt as it even then was upon His thigh in the passage of David, and sent as it would one day be by Him on earth. For this is what He says: |Ride on prosperously in Thy majesty | -- advancing His word into every land, so as to call all nations: destined to prosper in the success of that faith which received Him, and reigning, from the fact that He conquered death by His resurrection. |Thy right hand,| says He, |shall wonderfully lead Thee forth,| even the might of Thy spiritual grace, whereby the knowledge of Christ is spread. |Thine arrows are sharp;| everywhere Thy precepts fly about, Thy threatenings also, and convictions of heart, pricking and piercing each conscience. |The people shall fall under Thee,| that is, in adoration. Thus is the Creator's Christ mighty in war, and a bearer of arms; thus also does He now take the spoils, not of Samaria alone, but of all nations. Acknowledge, then, that His spoils are figurative, since you have learned that His arms are allegorical. Since, therefore, both the Lord speaks and His apostle writes such things in a figurative style, we are not rash in using His interpretations, the records of which even our adversaries admit; and thus in so far will it be Isaiah's Christ who has come, in as far as He was not a warrior, because it is not of such a character that He is described by Isaiah.