The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian
Chapter IX.--Out of St. Luke's Fifth Chapter are Found Proofs of Christ's Belonging to the Creator, E.g. In the Call of Fishermen to the Apostolic Office, and in the Cleansing of the Leper. Christ Compared with the Prophet Elisha.
Out of so many kinds of occupations, why indeed had He such respect for that of fishermen, as to select from it for apostles Simon and the sons of Zebedee (for it cannot seem to be the mere fact itself for which the narrative was meant to be drawn out ), saying to Peter, when he trembled at the very large draught of the fishes, |Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men?| By saying this, He suggested to them the meaning of the fulfilled prophecy, that it was even He who by Jeremiah had foretold, |Behold, I will send many fishers; and they shall fish them,| that is, men. Then at last they left their boats, and followed Him, understanding that it was He who had begun to accomplish what He had declared. It is quite another case, when he affected to choose from the college of shipmasters, intending one day to appoint the shipmaster Marcion his apostle. We have indeed already laid it down, in opposition to his Antitheses, that the position of Marcion derives no advantage from the diversity which he supposes to exist between the Law and the Gospel, inasmuch as even this was ordained by the Creator, and indeed predicted in the promise of the new Law, and the new Word, and the new Testament. Since, however, he quotes with especial care, as a proof in his domain, a certain companion in misery (suntalaiporon), and associate in hatred (summisoumenon ), with himself, for the cure of leprosy, I shall not be sorry to meet him, and before anything else to point out to him the force of the law figuratively interpreted, which, in this example of a leper (who was not to be touched, but was rather to be removed from all intercourse with others), prohibited any communication with a person who was defiled with sins, with whom the apostle also forbids us even to eat food, forasmuch as the taint of sins would be communicated as if contagious, wherever a man should mix himself with the sinner. The Lord, therefore, wishing that the law should be more profoundly understood as signifying spiritual truths by carnal facts -- and thus not destroying, but rather building up, that law which He wanted to have more earnestly acknowledged -- touched the leper, by whom (even although as man He might have been defiled) He could not be defiled as God, being of course incorruptible. The prescription, therefore, could not be meant for Him, that He was bound to observe the law and not touch the unclean person, seeing that contact with the unclean would not cause defilement to Him. I thus teach that this (immunity) is consistent in my Christ, the rather when I show that it is not consistent in yours. Now, if it was as an enemy of the law that He touched the leper -- disregarding the precept of the law by a contempt of the defilement -- how could he be defiled, when he possessed not a body which could be defiled? For a phantom is not susceptible of defilement. He therefore, who could not be defiled, as being a phantom, will not have an immunity from pollution by any divine power, but owing to his fantastic vacuity; nor can he be regarded as having despised pollution, who had not in fact any material capacity for it; nor, in like manner, as having destroyed the law, who had escaped defilement from the occasion of his phantom nature, not from any display of virtue. If, however, the Creator's prophet Elisha cleansed Naaman the Syrian alone, to the exclusion of so many lepers in Israel, this fact contributes nothing to the distinction of Christ, as if he were in this way the better one for cleansing this Israelite leper, although a stranger to him, whom his own Lord had been unable to cleanse. The cleansing of the Syrian rather was significant throughout the nations of the world of their own cleansing in Christ their light, steeped as they were in the stains of the seven deadly sins: idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery, fornication, false-witness, and fraud. Seven times, therefore, as if once for each, did he wash in Jordan; both in order that he might celebrate the expiation of a perfect hebdomad; and because the virtue and fulness of the one baptism was thus solemnly imputed to Christ, alone, who was one day to establish on earth not only a revelation, but also a baptism, endued with compendious efficacy. Even Marcion finds here an antithesis: how that Elisha indeed required a material resource, applied water, and that seven times; whereas Christ, by the employment of a word only, and that but once for all, instantly effected the cure. And surely I might venture to claim the Very Word also as of the Creator's substance. There is nothing of which He who was the primitive Author is not also the more powerful one. Forsooth, it is incredible that that power of the Creator should have, by a word, produced a remedy for a single malady, which once by a word brought into being so vast a fabric as the world! From what can the Christ of the Creator be better discerned, than from the power of His word? But Christ is on this account another (Christ), because He acted differently from Elisha -- because, in fact, the master is more powerful than his servant! Why, Marcion, do you lay down the rule, that things are done by servants just as they are by their very masters? Are you not afraid that it will turn to your discredit, if you deny that Christ belongs to the Creator, on the ground that He was once more powerful than a servant of the Creator -- since, in comparison with the weakness of Elisha, He is acknowledged to be the greater, if indeed greater! For the cure is the same, although there is a difference in the working of it. What has your Christ performed more than my Elisha? Nay, what great thing has the word of your Christ performed, when it has simply done that which a river of the Creator effected? On the same principle occurs all the rest. So far as renouncing all human glory went, He forbade the man to publish abroad the cure; but so far as the honour of the law was concerned, He requested that the usual course should be followed: |Go, show thyself to the priest, and present the offering which Moses commanded.| For the figurative signs of the law in its types He still would have observed, because of their prophetic import. These types signified that a man, once a sinner, but afterwards purified from the stains thereof by the word of God, was bound to offer unto God in the temple a gift, even prayer and thanksgiving in the church through Christ Jesus, who is the Catholic Priest of the Father. Accordingly He added: |that it may be for a testimony unto you| -- one, no doubt, whereby He would testify that He was not destroying the law, but fulfilling it; whereby, too, He would testify that it was He Himself who was foretold as about to undertake their sicknesses and infirmities. This very consistent and becoming explanation of |the testimony,| that adulator of his own Christ, Marcion seeks to exclude under the cover of mercy and gentleness. For, being both good (such are his words), and knowing, besides, that every man who had been freed from leprosy would be sure to perform the solemnities of the law, therefore He gave this precept. Well, what then? Has He continued in his goodness (that is to say, in his permission of the law) or not? For if he has persevered in his goodness, he will never become a destroyer of the law; nor will he ever be accounted as belonging to another god, because there would not exist that destruction of the law which would constitute his claim to belong to the other god. If, however, he has not continued good, by a subsequent destruction of the law, it is a false testimony which he has since imposed upon them in his cure of the leper; because he has forsaken his goodness, in destroying the law. If, therefore, he was good whilst upholding the law, he has now become evil as a destroyer of the law. However, by the support which he gave to the law, he affirmed that the law was good. For no one permits himself in the support of an evil thing. Therefore he is not only bad if he has permitted obedience to a bad law; but even worse still, if he has appeared as the destroyer of a good law. So that if he commanded the offering of the gift because he knew that every cured leper would be sure to bring one; he possibly abstained from commanding what he knew would be spontaneously done. In vain, therefore, was his coming down, as if with the intention of destroying the law, when he makes concessions to the keepers of the law. And yet, because he knew their disposition, he ought the more earnestly to have prevented their neglect of the law, since he had come for this purpose. Why then did he not keep silent, that man might of his own simple will obey the law? For then might he have seemed to some extent to have persisted in his patience. But he adds also his own authority increased by the weight of this |testimony.| Of what testimony, I ask, if not that of the assertion of the law? Surely it matters not in what way he asserted the law -- whether as good, or as supererogatory, or as patient, or as inconstant -- provided, Marcion, I drive you from your position. Observe, he commanded that the law should be fulfilled. In whatever way he commanded it, in the same way might he also have first uttered that sentiment: |I came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it.| What business, therefore, had you to erase out of the Gospel that which was quite consistent in it? For you have confessed that, in his goodness, he did in act what you deny that he did in word. We have therefore good proof that He uttered the word, in the fact that He did the deed; and that you have rather expunged the Lord's word, than that our (evangelists) have inserted it.