The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian
Chapter IV.--Each Side Claims to Possess the True Gospel Antiquity the Criterion of Truth in Such a Matter. Marcion's Pretensions as an Amender of the Gospel.
We must follow, then, the clue of our discussion, meeting every effort of our opponents with reciprocal vigor. I say that my Gospel is the true one; Marcion, that his is. I affirm that Marcion's Gospel is adulterated; Marcion, that mine is. Now what is to settle the point for us, except it be that principle of time, which rules that the authority lies with that which shall be found to be more ancient; and assumes as an elemental truth, that corruption (of doctrine) belongs to the side which shall be convicted of comparative lateness in its origin. For, inasmuch as error is falsification of truth, it must needs be that truth therefore precede error. A thing must exist prior to its suffering any casualty; and an object must precede all rivalry to itself. Else how absurd it would be, that, when we have proved our position to be the older one, and Marcion's the later, ours should yet appear to be the false one, before it had even received from truth its objective existence; and Marcion's should also be supposed to have experienced rivalry at our hands, even before its publication; and, in fine, that that should be thought to be the truer position which is the later one -- a century later than the publication of all the many and great facts and records of the Christian religion, which certainly could not have been published without, that is to say, before, the truth of the gospel. With regard, then, to the pending question, of Luke's Gospel (so far as its being the common property of ourselves and Marcion enables it to be decisive of the truth, ) that portion of it which we alone receive is so much older than Marcion, that Marcion himself once believed it, when in the first warmth of faith he contributed money to the Catholic church, which along with himself was afterwards rejected, when he fell away from our truth into his own heresy. What if the Marcionites have denied that he held the primitive faith amongst ourselves, in the face even of his own letter? What, if they do not acknowledge the letter? They, at any rate, receive his Antitheses; and more than that, they make ostentatious use of them. Proof out of these is enough for me. For if the Gospel, said to be Luke's which is current amongst us (we shall see whether it be also current with Marcion), is the very one which, as Marcion argues in his Antitheses, was interpolated by the defenders of Judaism, for the purpose of such a conglomeration with it of the law and the prophets as should enable them out of it to fashion their Christ, surely he could not have so argued about it, unless he had found it (in such a form). No one censures things before they exist, when he knows not whether they will come to pass. Emendation never precedes the fault. To be sure, an amender of that Gospel, which had been all topsy-turvy from the days of Tiberius to those of Antoninus, first presented himself in Marcion alone -- so long looked for by Christ, who was all along regretting that he had been in so great a hurry to send out his apostles without the support of Marcion! But for all that, heresy, which is for ever mending the Gospels, and corrupting them in the act, is an affair of man's audacity, not of God's authority; and if Marcion be even a disciple, he is yet not |above his master;| if Marcion be an apostle, still as Paul says, |Whether it be I or they, so we preach;| if Marcion be a prophet, even |the spirits of the prophets will be subject to the prophets,| for they are not the authors of confusion, but of peace; or if Marcion be actually an angel, he must rather be designated |as anathema than as a preacher of the gospel,| because it is a strange gospel which he has preached. So that, whilst he amends, he only confirms both positions: both that our Gospel is the prior one, for he amends that which he has previously fallen in with; and that that is the later one, which, by putting it together out of the emendations of ours, he has made his own Gospel, and a novel one too.