The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian
Chapter XX.--Comparison of Christ's Power Over Winds and Waves with Moses' Command of the Waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan. Christ's Power Over Unclean Spirits. The Case of the Legion. The Cure of the Issue of Blood. The Mosaic Uncleanness on This Poi
But |what manner of man is this? for He commandeth even the winds and water!| Of course He is the new master and proprietor of the elements, now that the Creator is deposed, and excluded from their possession! Nothing of the kind. But the elements own their own Maker, just as they had been accustomed to obey His servants also. Examine well the Exodus, Marcion; look at the rod of Moses, as it waves His command to the Red Sea, ampler than all the lakes of Judæa. How the sea yawns from its very depths, then fixes itself in two solidified masses, and so, out of the interval between them, makes a way for the people to pass dry-shod across; again does the same rod vibrate, the sea returns in its strength, and in the concourse of its waters the chivalry of Egypt is engulphed! To that consummation the very winds subserved! Read, too, how that the Jordan was as a sword, to hinder the emigrant nation in their passage across its stream; how that its waters from above stood still, and its current below wholly ceased to run at the bidding of Joshua, when his priests began to pass over! What will you say to this? If it be your Christ that is meant above, he will not be more potent than the servants of the Creator. But I should have been content with the examples I have adduced without addition, if a prediction of His present passage on the sea had not preceded Christ's coming. As psalm is, in fact, accomplished by this crossing over the lake. |The Lord,| says the psalmist, |is upon many waters.| When He disperses its waves, Habakkuk's words are fulfilled, where he says, |Scattering the waters in His passage.| When at His rebuke the sea is calmed, Nahum is also verified: He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry,| including the winds indeed, whereby it was disquieted. With what evidence would you have my Christ vindicated? Shall it come from the examples, or from the prophecies, of the Creator? You suppose that He is predicted as a military and armed warrior, instead of one who in a figurative and allegorical sense was to wage a spiritual warfare against spiritual enemies, in spiritual campaigns, and with spiritual weapons: come now, when in one man alone you discover a multitude of demons calling itself Legion, of course comprised of spirits, you should learn that Christ also must be understood to be an exterminator of spiritual foes, who wields spiritual arms and fights in spiritual strife; and that it was none other than He, who now had to contend with even a legion of demons. Therefore it is of such a war as this that the Psalm may evidently have spoken: |The Lord is strong, The Lord is mighty in battle.| For with the last enemy death did He fight, and through the trophy of the cross He triumphed. Now of what God did the Legion testify that Jesus was the Son? No doubt, of that God whose torments and abyss they knew and dreaded. It seems impossible for them to have remained up to this time in ignorance of what the power of the recent and unknown god was working in the world, because it is very unlikely that the Creator was ignorant thereof. For if He had been at any time ignorant that there was another god above Himself, He had by this time at all events discovered that there was one at work below His heaven. Now, what their Lord had discovered had by this time become notorious to His entire family within the same world and the same circuit of heaven, in which the strange deity dwelt and acted. As therefore both the Creator and His creatures must have had knowledge of him, if he had been in existence, so, inasmuch as he had no existence, the demons really knew none other than the Christ of their own God. They do not ask of the strange god, what they recollected they must beg of the Creator -- not to be plunged into the Creator's abyss. They at last had their request granted. On what ground? Because they had lied? Because they had proclaimed Him to be the Son of a ruthless God? And what sort of god will that be who helped the lying, and upheld his detractors? However, no need of this thought, for, inasmuch as they had not lied, inasmuch as they had acknowledged that the God of the abyss was also their God, so did He actually Himself affirm that He was the same whom these demons acknowledged -- Jesus, the Judge and Son of the avenging God. Now, behold an inkling of the Creator's failings and infirmities in Christ; for I on my side mean to impute to Him ignorance. Allow me some indulgence in my effort against the heretic. Jesus is touched by the woman who had an issue of blood, He knew not by whom. |Who touched me?| He asks, when His disciples alleged an excuse. He even persists in His assertion of ignorance: |Somebody hath touched me,| He says, and advances some proof: |For I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.| What says our heretic? Could Christ have known the person? And why did He speak as if He were ignorant? Why? Surely it was to challenge her faith, and to try her fear. Precisely as He had once questioned Adam, as if in ignorance: Adam, where art thou?| Thus you have both the Creator excused in the same way as Christ, and Christ acting similarly to the Creator. But in this case He acted as an adversary of the law; and therefore, as the law forbids contact with a woman with an issue, He desired not only that this woman should touch Him, but that He should heal her. Here, then, is a God who is not merciful by nature, but in hostility! Yet, if we find that such was the merit of this woman's faith, that He said unto her, Thy faith hath saved thee,| what are you, that you should detect an hostility to the law in that act, which the Lord Himself shows us to have been done as a reward of faith? But will you have it that this faith of the woman consisted in the contempt which she had acquired for the law? Who can suppose, that a woman who had been. hitherto unconscious of any God, uninitiated as yet in any new law, should violently infringe that law by which she was up to this time bound? On what faith, indeed, was such an infringement hazarded? In what God believing? Whom despising? The Creator? Her touch at least was an act of faith. And if of faith in the Creator, how could she have violated His law, when she was ignorant of any other God? Whatever her infringement of the law amounted to, it proceeded from and was proportionate to her faith in the Creator. But how can these two things be compatible? That she violated the law, and violated it in faith, which ought to have restrained her from such violation? I will tell you how her faith was this above all: it made her believe that her God preferred mercy even to sacrifice; she was certain that her God was working in Christ; she touched Him, therefore, nor as a holy man simply, nor as a prophet, whom she knew to be capable of contamination by reason of his human nature, but as very God, whom she assumed to be beyond all possibility of pollution by any uncleanness. She therefore, not without reason, interpreted for herself the law, as meaning that such things as are susceptible of defilement become defiled, but not so God, whom she knew for certain to be in Christ. But she recollected this also, that what came under the prohibition of the law was that ordinary and usual issue of blood which proceeds from natural functions every month, and in childbirth, not that which was the result of disordered health. Her case, however, was one of long abounding ill health, for which she knew that the succour of God's mercy was needed, and not the natural relief of time. And thus she may evidently be regarded as having discerned the law, instead of breaking it. This will prove to be the faith which was to confer intelligence likewise. |If ye will not believe,| says (the prophet), |ye shall not understand.| When Christ approved of the faith of this woman, which simply rested in the Creator, He declared by His answer to her, that He was Himself the divine object of the faith of which He approved. Nor can I overlook the fact that His garment, by being touched, demonstrated also the truth of His body; for of course| it was a body, and not a phantom, which the garment clothed. This indeed is not our point now; but the remark has a natural bearing on the question we are discussing. For if it were not a veritable body, but only a fantastic one, it could not for certain have received contamination, as being an unsubstantial thing. He therefore, who, by reason of this vacuity of his substance, was incapable of contamination, how could he possibly have desired this touch? As an adversary of the law, his conduct was deceitful, for he was not susceptible of a real pollution.