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Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video : Christian Books : Chapter XI.--The Call of Levi the Publican Christ in Relation to the Baptist. Christ as the Bridegroom. The Parable of the Old Wine and the New. Arguments Connecting Christ with the Creator.

The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian

Chapter XI.--The Call of Levi the Publican Christ in Relation to the Baptist. Christ as the Bridegroom. The Parable of the Old Wine and the New. Arguments Connecting Christ with the Creator.

The publican who was chosen by the Lord, he adduces for a proof that he was chosen as a stranger to the law and uninitiated in Judaism, by one who was an adversary to the law. The case of Peter escaped his memory, who, although he was a man of the law, was not only chosen by the Lord, but also obtained the testimony of possessing knowledge which was given to him by the Father. He had nowhere read of Christ's being foretold as the light, and hope, and expectation of the Gentiles! He, however, rather spoke of the Jews in a favourable light, when he said, |The whole needed not a physician, but they that are sick.| For since by |those that are sick| he meant that the heathens and publicans should be understood, whom he was choosing, he affirmed of the Jews that they were |whole| for whom he said that a physician was not necessary. This being the case, he makes a mistake in coming down to destroy the law, as if for the remedy of a diseased condition. because they who were living under it were |whole,| and |not in want of a physician.| How, moreover, does it happen that he proposed the similitude of a physician, if he did not verify it? For, just as nobody uses a physician for healthy persons, so will no one do so for strangers, in so far as he is one of Marcion's god-made men, having to himself both a creator and preserver, and a specially good physician, in his Christ. This much the comparison predetermines, that a physician is more usually furnished by him to whom the sick people belong. Whence, too, does John come upon the scene? Christ, suddenly; and just as suddenly, John! After this fashion occur all things in Marcion's system. They have their own special and plenary course in the Creator's dispensation. Of John, however, what else I have to say will be found in another passage. To the several points which now come before us an answer must be given. This, then, I will take care to do -- demonstrate that, reciprocally, John is suitable to Christ, and Christ to John, the latter, of course, as a prophet of the Creator, just as the former is the Creator's Christ; and so the heretic may blush at frustrating, to his own frustration, the mission of John the Baptist. For if there had been no ministry of John at all -- |the voice,| as Isaiah calls him, |of one crying in the wilderness,| and the preparer of the ways of the Lord by denunciation and recommendation of repentance; if, too, he had not baptized (Christ) Himself along with others, nobody could have challenged the disciples of Christ, as they ate and drank, to a comparison with the disciples of John, who were constantly fasting and praying; because, if there existed any diversity between Christ and John, and their followers respectively, no exact comparison would be possible, nor would there be a single point where it could be challenged. For nobody would feel surprise, and nobody would be perplexed, although there should arise rival predictions of a diverse deity, which should also mutually differ about modes of conduct, having a prior difference about the authorities upon which they were based. Therefore Christ belonged to John, and John to Christ; while both belonged to the Creator, and both were of the law and the prophets, preachers and masters. Else Christ would have rejected the discipline of John, as of the rival god, and would also have defended the disciples, as very properly pursuing a different walk, because consecrated to the service of another and contrary deity. But as it is, while modestly giving a reason why |the children of the bridegroom are unable to fast during the time the bridegroom is with them,| but promising that |they should afterwards fast, when the bridegroom was taken away from them,| He neither defended the disciples, (but rather excused them, as if they had not been blamed without some reason), nor rejected the discipline of John, but rather allowed it, referring it to the time of John, although destining it for His own time. Otherwise His purpose would have been to reject it, and to defend its opponents, if He had not Himself already belonged to it as then in force. I hold also that it is my Christ who is meant by the bridegroom, of whom the psalm says: |He is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and His return is back to the end of it again.| By the mouth of Isaiah He also says exultingly of the Father: |Let my soul rejoice in the Lord; for He hath clothed me with the garment of salvation and with the tunic of joy, as a bridegroom. He hath put a mitre round about my head, as a bride.| To Himself likewise He appropriates the church, concerning which the same Spirit says to Him: |Thou shalt clothe Thee with them all, as with a bridal ornament.| This spouse Christ invites home to Himself also by Solomon from the call of the Gentiles, because you read: |Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse.| He elegantly makes mention of Lebanon (the mountain, of course) because it stands for the name of frankincense with the Greeks; for it was from idolatry that He betrothed Himself the church. Deny now, Marcion, your utter madness, (if you can)! Behold, you impugn even the law of your god. He unites not in the nuptial bond, nor, when contracted, does he allow it; no one does he baptize but a cælebs or a eunuch; until death or divorce does he reserve baptism. Wherefore, then, do you make his Christ a bridegroom? This is the designation of Him who united man and woman, not of him who separated them. You have erred also in that declaration of Christ, wherein He seems to make a difference between things new and old. You are inflated about the old bottles, and brain-muddled with the new wine; and therefore to the old (that is to say, to the prior) gospel you have sewed on the patch of your new-fangled heresy. I should like to know in what respect the Creator is inconsistent with Himself. When by Jeremiah He gave this precept, |Break up for yourselves new pastures,| does He not turn away from the old state of things? And when by Isaiah He proclaims how |old things were passed away; and, behold, all things, which I am making, are new,| does He not advert to a new state of things? We have generally been of opinion that the destination of the former state of things was rather promised by the Creator, and exhibited in reality by Christ, only under the authority of one and the same God, to whom appertain both the old things and the new. For new wine is not put into old bottles, except by one who has the old bottles; nor does anybody put a new piece to an old garment, unless the old garment be forthcoming to him. That person only does not do a thing when it is not to be done, who has the materials wherewithal to do it if it were to be done. And therefore, since His object in making the comparison was to show that He was separating the new condition of the gospel from the old state of the law, He proved that that from which He was separating His own ought not to have been branded as a separation of things which were alien to each other; for nobody ever unites his own things with things that are alien to them, in order that he may afterwards be able to separate them from the alien things. A separation is possible by help of the conjunction through which it is made. Accordingly, the things which He separated He also proved to have been once one; as they would have remained, were it not for His separation. But still we make this concession, that there is a separation, by reformation, by amplification, by progress; just as the fruit is separated from the seed, although the fruit comes from the seed. So likewise the gospel is separated from the law, whilst it advances from the law -- a different thing from it, but not an alien one; diverse, but not contrary. Nor in Christ do we even find any novel form of discourse. Whether He proposes similitudes or refute questions, it comes from the seventy-seventh Psalm. |I will open,| says He, |my mouth in a parable| (that is, in a similitude); |I will utter dark problems| (that is, I will set forth questions). If you should wish to prove that a man belonged to another race, no doubt you would fetch your proof from the idiom of his language.
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