The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian
Chapter XXVII.--Christ's Reprehension of the Pharisees Seeking a Sign His Censure of Their Love of Outward Show Rather Than Inward Holiness. Scripture Abounds with Admonitions of a Similar Purport. Proofs of His Mission from the Creator.
I prefer elsewhere refuting the faults which the Marcionites find in the Creator. It is here enough that they are also found in Christ. Behold how unequal, inconsistent, and capricious he is! Teaching one thing and doing another, he enjoins |giving to every one that seeks;| and yet he himself refuses to give to those |who seek a sign.| For a vast age he hides his own light from men, and yet says that a candle must not be hidden, but affirms that it ought to be set upon a candlestick, that it may give light to all. He forbids cursing again, and cursing much more of course; and yet he heaps his woe upon the Pharisees and doctors of the law. Who so closely resembles my God as His own Christ? We have often already laid it down for certain, that He could not have been branded as the destroyer of the law if He had promulged another god. Therefore even the Pharisee, who invited Him to dinner in the passage before us, expressed some surprise in His presence that He had not washed before He sat down to meat, in accordance with the law, since it was the God of the law that He was proclaiming. Jesus also interpreted the law to him when He told him that they |made clean the outside of the cup and the platter, whereas their inward part was full of ravening and wickedness.| This He said, to signify that by the cleansing of vessels was to be understood before God the purification of men, inasmuch as it was about a man, and not about an unwashed vessel, that even this Pharisee had been treating in His presence. He therefore said: |You wash the outside of the cup,| that is, the flesh, |but you do not cleanse your inside part,| that is, the soul; adding: |Did not He that made the outside,| that is, the flesh, |also make the inward part,| that is to say, the soul? -- by which assertion He expressly declared that to the same God belongs the cleansing of a man's external and internal nature, both alike being in the power of Him who prefers mercy not only to man's washing, but even to sacrifice. For He subjoins the command: |Give what ye possess as alms, and all things shall be clean unto you.| Even if another god could have enjoined mercy, he could not have done so previous to his becoming known. Furthermore, it is in this passage evident that they were not reproved concerning their God, but concerning a point of His instruction to them, when He prescribed to them figuratively the cleansing of their vessels, but really the works of merciful dispositions. In like manner, He upbraids them for tithing paltry herbs, but at the same time |passing over hospitality and the love of God.| The vocation and the love of what God, but Him by whose law of tithes they used to offer their rue and mint? For the whole point of the rebuke lay in this, that they cared about small matters in His service of course, to whom they failed to exhibit their weightier duties when He commanded them: |Thou shalt love with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, the Lord thy God, who hath called thee out of Egypt.| Besides, time enough had not yet passed to admit of Christ's requiring so premature -- nay, as yet so distasteful -- a love towards a new and recent, not to say a hardly yet developed, deity. When, again, He upbraids those who caught at the uppermost places and the honour of public salutations, He only follows out the Creator's course, who calls ambitious persons of this character |rulers of Sodom,| who forbids us |to put confidence even in princes,| and pronounces him to be altogether wretched who places his confidence in man. But whoever aims at high position, because he would glory in the officious attentions of other people, (in every such case,) inasmuch as He forbade such attentions (in the shape) of placing hope and confidence in man, He at the same time censured all who were ambitious of high positions. He also inveighs against the doctors of the law themselves, because they were |lading men with burdens grievous to be borne, which they did not venture to touch with even a finger of their own;| but not as if He made a mock of the burdens of the law with any feeling of detestation towards it. For how could He have felt aversion to the law, who used with so much earnestness to upbraid them for passing over its weightier matters, alms -- giving, hospitality, and the love of God? Nor, indeed, was it only these great things (which He recognized), but even the tithes of rue and the cleansing of cups. But, in truth, He would rather have deemed them excusable for being unable to carry burdens which could not be borne. What, then, are the burdens which He censures? None but those which they were accumulating of their own accord, when they taught for commandments the doctrines of men; for the sake of private advantage joining house to house, so as to deprive their neighbour of his own; cajoling the people, loving gifts, pursuing rewards, robbing the poor of the rights of judgment, that they might have the widow for a prey and the fatherless for a spoil. Of these Isaiah also says, |Woe unto them that are strong in Jerusalem!| and again, |They that demand you shall rule over you.| And who did this more than the lawyers? Now, if these offended Christ, it was as belonging to Him that they offended Him. He would have aimed no blow at the teachers of an alien law. But why is a |woe| pronounced against them for |building the sepulchres of the prophets whom their fathers had killed?| They rather deserved praise, because by such an act of piety they seemed to show that they did not allow the deeds of their fathers. Was it not because (Christ) was jealous of such a disposition as the Marcionites denounce, visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the fourth generation? What |key,| indeed, was it which these lawyers had, but the interpretation of the law? Into the perception of this they neither entered themselves, even because they did not believe (for |unless ye believe, ye shall not understand|); nor did they permit others to enter, because they preferred to teach them for commandments even the doctrines of men. When, therefore, He reproached those who did not themselves enter in, and also shut the door against others, must He be regarded as a disparager of the law, or as a supporter of it? If a disparager, those who were hindering the law ought to have been pleased; if a supporter, He is no longer an enemy of the law. But all these imprecations He uttered in order to tarnish the Creator as a cruel Being, against whom such as offended were destined to have a |woe.| And who would not rather have feared to provoke a cruel Being, by withdrawing allegiance from Him? Therefore the more He represented the Creator to be an object of fear, the more earnestly would He teach that He ought to be served. Thus would it behove the Creator's Christ to act.