The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian
Chapter X.--Further Proofs of the Same Truth in the Same Chapter, from the Healing of the Paralytic, and from the Designation Son of Man Which Jesus Gives Himself. Tertullian Sustains His Argument by Several Quotations from the Prophets.
The sick of the palsy is healed, and that in public, in the sight of the people. For, says Isaiah, |they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.| What glory, and what excellency? |Be strong, ye weak hands, and ye feeble knees:| this refers to the palsy. |Be strong; fear not.| Be strong is not vainly repeated, nor is fear not vainly added; because with the renewal of the limbs there was to be, according to the promise, a restoration also of bodily energies: |Arise, and take up thy couch;| and likewise moral courage not to be afraid of those who should say, |Who can forgive sins, but God alone?| So that you have here not only the fulfilment of the prophecy which promised a particular kind of healing, but also of the symptoms which followed the cure. In like manner, you should also recognise Christ in the same prophet as the forgiver of sins. |For,| he says, |He shall remit to many their sins, and shall Himself take away our sins.| For in an earlier passage, speaking in the person of the Lord himself, he had said: |Even though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them as white as snow; even though they be like crimson, I will whiten them as wool.| In the scarlet colour He indicates the blood of the prophets; in the crimson, that of the Lord, as the brighter. Concerning the forgiveness of sins, Micah also says: |Who is a God like unto Thee? pardoning iniquity, and passing by the transgressions of the remnant of Thine heritage. He retaineth not His anger as a testimony against them, because He delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, and will have compassion upon us; He wipeth away our iniquities, and casteth our sins into the depths of the sea.| Now, if nothing of this sort had been predicted of Christ, I should find in the Creator examples of such a benignity as would hold out to me the promise of similar affections also in the Son of whom He is the Father. I see how the Ninevites obtained forgiveness of their sins from the Creator -- not to say from Christ, even then, because from the beginning He acted in the Father's name. I read, too, how that, when David acknowledged his sin against Uriah, the prophet Nathan said unto him, |The Lord hath cancelled thy sin, and thou shalt not die;| how king Ahab in like manner, the husband of Jezebel, guilty of idolatry and of the blood of Naboth, obtained pardon because of his repentance; and how Jonathan the son of Saul blotted out by his deprecation the guilt of a violated fast. Why should I recount the frequent restoration of the nation itself after the forgiveness of their sins? -- by that God, indeed, who will have mercy rather than sacrifice, and a sinner's repentance rather than his death. You will first have to deny that the Creator ever forgave sins; then you must in reason show that He never ordained any such prerogative for His Christ; and so you will prove how novel is that boasted benevolence of the, of course, novel Christ when you shall have proved that it is neither compatible with the Creator nor predicted by the Creator. But whether to remit sins can appertain to one who is said to be unable to retain them, and whether to absolve can belong to him who is incompetent even to condemn, and whether to forgive is suitable to him against whom no offence can be committed, are questions which we have encountered elsewhere, when we preferred to drop suggestions rather than treat them anew. Concerning the Son of man our rule is a twofold one: that Christ cannot lie, so as to declare Himself the Son of man, if He be not truly so; nor can He be constituted the Son of man, unless He be born of a human parent, either father or mother. And then the discussion will turn on the point, of which human parent He ought to be accounted the son -- of the father or the mother? Since He is (begotten) of God the Father, He is not, of course, (the son) of a human father. If He is not of a human father, it follows that He must be (the son) of a human mother. If of a human mother, it is evident that she must be a virgin. For to whom a human father is not ascribed, to his mother a husband will not be reckoned; and then to what mother a husband is not reckoned, the condition of virginity belongs. But if His mother be not a virgin, two fathers will have to be reckoned to Him -- a divine and a human one. For she must have a husband, not to be a virgin; and by having a husband, she would cause two fathers -- one divine, the other human -- to accrue to Him, who would thus be Son both of God and of a man. Such a nativity (if one may call it so) the mythic stories assign to Castor or to Hercules. Now, if this distinction be observed, that is to say, if He be Son of man as born of His mother, because not begotten of a father, and His mother be a virgin, because His father is not human -- He will be that Christ whom Isaiah foretold that a virgin should conceive, on what principle you, Marcion, can admit Him Son of man, I cannot possibly see. If through a human father, then you deny him to be Son of God; if through a divine one also, then you make Christ the Hercules of fable; if through a human mother only, then you concede my point; if not through a human father also, then He is not the son of any man, and He must have been guilty of a lie for having declared Himself to be what He was not. One thing alone can help you in your difficulty: boldness on your part either to surname your God as actually the human father of Christ, as Valentinus did with his Æon; or else to deny that the Virgin was human, which even Valentinus did not do. What now, if Christ be described in Daniel by this very title of |Son of man?| Is not this enough to prove that He is the Christ of prophecy? For if He gives Himself that appellation which was provided in the prophecy for the Christ of the Creator, He undoubtedly offers Himself to be understood as Him to whom (the appellation) was assigned by the prophet. But perhaps it can be regarded as a simple identity of names; and yet we have maintained that neither Christ nor Jesus ought to have been called by these names, if they possessed any condition of diversity. But as regards the appellation |Son of man,| in as far as it occurs by accident, in so far there is a difficulty in its occurrence along with a casual identity of names. For it is of pure accident, especially when the same cause does not appear whereby the identity may be occasioned. And therefore, if Marcion's Christ be also said to be born of man, then he too would receive an identical appellation, and there would be two Sons of man, as also two Christs and two Jesuses. Therefore, since the appellation is the sole right of Him in whom it has a suitable reason, if it be claimed for another in whom there is an identity of name, but not of appellation, then the identity of name even looks suspicious in him for whom is claimed without reason the identity of appellation. And it follows that He must be believed to be One and the Same, who is found to be the more fit to receive both the name and the appellation; while the other is excluded, who has no right to the appellation, because he has no reason to show for it. Nor will any other be better entitled to both than He who is the earlier, and has had allotted to Him the name of Christ and the appellation of Son of man, even the Jesus of the Creator. It was He who was seen by the king of Babylon in the furnace with His martyrs: |the fourth, who was like the Son of man.| He also was revealed to Daniel himself expressly as |the Son of man, coming in the clouds of heaven| as a Judge, as also the Scripture shows. What I have advanced might have been sufficient concerning the designation in prophecy of the Son of man. But the Scripture offers me further information, even in the interpretation of the Lord Himself. For when the Jews, who looked at Him as merely man, and were not yet sure that He was God also, as being likewise the Son of God, rightly enough said that a man could not forgive sins, but God alone, why did He not, following up their point about man, answer them, that He had power to remit sins; inasmuch as, when He mentioned the Son of man, He also named a human being? except it were because He wanted, by help of the very designation |Son of man| from the book of Daniel, so to induce them to reflect as to show them that He who remitted sins was God and man -- that only Son of man, indeed, in the prophecy of Daniel, who had obtained the power of judging, and thereby, of course, of forgiving sins likewise (for He who judges also absolves); so that, when once that objection of theirs was shattered to pieces by their recollection of Scripture, they might the more easily acknowledge Him to be the Son of man Himself by His own actual forgiveness of sins. I make one more observation, how that He has nowhere as yet professed Himself to be the Son of God -- but for the first time in this passage, in which for the first time He has remitted sins; that is, in which for the first time He has used His function of judgment, by the absolution. All that the opposite side has to allege in argument against these things, (I beg you) carefully weigh what it amounts to. For it must needs strain itself to such a pitch of infatuation as, on the one hand, to maintain that (their Christ) is also Son of man, in order to save Him from the charge of falsehood; and, on the other hand, to deny that He was born of woman, lest they grant that He was the Virgin's son. Since, however, the divine authority and the nature of the case, and common sense, do not admit this insane position of the heretics, we have here the opportunity of putting in a veto in the briefest possible terms, on the substance of Christ's body, against Marcion's phantoms. Since He is born of man, being the Son of man. He is body derived from body. You may, I assure you, more easily find a man born without a heart or without brains, like Marcion himself, than without a body, like Marcion's Christ. And let this be the limit to your examination of the heart, or, at any rate, the brains of the heretic of Pontus.