The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian
Chapter XXIX.--Parallels from the Prophets to Illustrate Christ's Teaching in the Rest of This Chapter of St. Luke. The Sterner Attributes of Christ, in His Judicial Capacity, Show Him to Have Come from the Creator. Incidental Rebukes of Marcion's Doctrin
Who would be unwilling that we should distress ourselves about sustenance for our life, or clothing for our body, but He who has provided these things already for man; and who, therefore, while distributing them to us, prohibits all anxiety respecting them as an outrage against his liberality? -- who has adapted the nature of |life| itself to a condition |better than meat,| and has fashioned the material of |the body,| so as to make it |more than raiment;| whose |ravens, too, neither sow nor reap, nor gather into storehouses, and are yet fed| by Himself; whose |lilies and grass also toil not, nor spin, and yet are clothed| by Him; whose |Solomon, moreover, was transcendent in glory, and yet was not arrayed like| the humble flower. Besides, nothing can be more abrupt than that one God should be distributing His bounty, while the other should bid us take no thought about (so kindly a) distribution -- and that, too, with the intention of derogating (from his liberality). Whether, indeed, it is as depreciating the Creator that he does not wish such trifles to be thought of, concerning which neither the crows nor the lilies labour, because, forsooth, they come spontaneously to hand by reason of their very worthlessness, will appear a little further on. Meanwhile, how is it that He chides them as being |of little faith?| What faith? Does He mean that faith which they were as yet unable to manifest perfectly in a god who has hardly yet revealed, and whom they were in process of learning as well as they could; or that faith which they for this express reason owed to the Creator, because they believed that He was of His own will supplying these wants of the human race, and therefore took no thought about them? Now, when He adds, |For all these things do the nations of the world seek after,| even by their not believing in God as the Creator and Giver of all things, since He was unwilling that they should be like these nations, He therefore upbraided them as being defective of faith in the same God, in whom He remarked that the Gentiles were quite wanting in faith. When He further adds, |But your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things,| I would first ask, what Father Christ would have to be here understood? If He points to their own Creator, He also affirms Him to be good, who knows what His children have need of; but if He refers to that other god, how does he know that food and raiment are necessary to man, seeing that he has made no such provision for him? For if he had known the want, he would have made the provision. If, however, he knows what things man has need of, and yet has failed to supply them, he is in the failure guilty of either malignity or weakness. But when he confessed that these things are necessary to man, he really affirmed that they are good. For nothing that is evil is necessary. So that he will not be any longer a depreciator of the works and the indulgences of the Creator, that I may here complete the answer which I deferred giving above. Again, if it is another god who has foreseen man's wants, and is supplying them, how is it that Marcion's Christ himself promises them? Is he liberal with another's property? |Seek ye,| says he, |the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you| -- by himself, of course. But if by himself, what sort of being is he, who shall bestow the things of another? If by the Creator, whose all things are, then who is he that promises what belongs to another? If these things are |additions| to the kingdom, they must be placed in the second rank; and the second rank belongs to Him to whom the first also does; His are the food and raiment, whose is the kingdom. Thus to the Creator belongs the entire promise, the full reality of its parables, the perfect equalization of its similitudes; for these have respect to none other than Him to whom they have a parity of relation in every point. We are servants because we have a Lord in our God. We ought |to have our loins girded:| in other words, we are to be free from the embarrassments of a perplexed and much occupied life; |to have our lights burning,| that is, our minds kindled by faith, and resplendent with the works of truth. And thus |to wait for our Lord,| that is, Christ. Whence |returning?| If |from the wedding,| He is the Christ of the Creator, for the wedding is His. If He is not the Creator's, not even Marcion himself would have gone to the wedding, although invited, for in his god he discovers one who hates the nuptial bed. The parable would therefore have failed in the person of the Lord, if He were not a Being to whom a wedding is consistent. In the next parable also he makes a flagrant mistake, when he assigns to the person of the Creator that |thief, whose hour, if the father of the family had only known, he would not have suffered his house to be broken through.| How can the Creator wear in any way the aspect of a thief, Lord as He is of all mankind? No one pilfers or plunders his own property, but he rather acts the part of one who swoops down on the things of another, and alienates man from his Lord. Again, when He indicates to us that the devil is |the thief,| whose hour at the very beginning of the world, if man had known, he would never have been broken in upon by him, He warns us |to be ready,| for this reason, because |we know not the hour when the Son of man shall come| -- not as if He were Himself the thief, but rather as being the judge of those who prepared not themselves, and used no precaution against the thief. Since, then, He is the Son of man, I hold Him to be the Judge, and in the Judge I claim the Creator. If then in this passage he displays the Creator's Christ under the title |Son of man,| that he may give us some presage of the thief, of the period of whose coming we are ignorant, you still have it ruled above, that no one is the thief of his own property; besides which, there is our principle also unimpaired -- that in as far as He insists on the Creator as an object of fear, in so far does He belong to the Creator, and does the Creator's work. When, therefore, Peter asked whether He had spoken the parable |unto them, or even to all,| He sets forth for them, and for all who should bear rule in the churches, the similitude of stewards. That steward who should treat his fellow-servants well in his Lord's absence, would on his return be set as ruler over all his property; but he who should act otherwise should be severed, and have his portion with the unbelievers, when his lord should return on the day when he looked not for him, at the hour when he was not aware -- even that Son of man, the Creator's Christ, not a thief, but a Judge. He accordingly, in this passage, either presents to us the Lord as a Judge, and instructs us in His character, or else as the simply good god; if the latter, he now also affirms his judicial attribute, although the heretic refuses to admit it. For an attempt is made to modify this sense when it is applied to his god, -- as if it were an act of serenity and mildness simply to sever the man off, and to assign him a portion with the unbelievers, under the idea that he was not summoned (before the judge), but only returned to his own state! As if this very process did not imply a judicial act! What folly! What will be the end of the severed ones? Will it not be the forfeiture of salvation, since their separation will be from those who shall attain salvation? What, again, will be the condition of the unbelievers? Will it not be damnation? Else, if these severed and unfaithful ones shall have nothing to suffer, there will, on the other hand, be nothing for the accepted and the believers to obtain. If, however, the accepted and the believers shall attain salvation, it must needs be that the rejected and the unbelieving should incur the opposite issue, even the loss of salvation. Now here is a judgment, and He who holds it out before us belongs to the Creator. Whom else than the God of retribution can I understand by Him who shall |beat His servants with stripes,| either |few or many,| and shall exact from them what He had committed to them? Whom is it suitable for me to obey, but Him who remunerates? Your Christ proclaims, |I am come to send fire on the earth.| That most lenient being, the lord who has no hell, not long before had restrained his disciples from demanding fire on the churlish village. Whereas He burnt up Sodom and Gomorrah with a tempest of fire. Of Him the psalmist sang, |A fire shall go out before Him, and burn up His enemies round about.| By Hoses He uttered the threat, |I will send a fire upon the cities of Judah;| and by Isaiah, |A fire has been kindled in mine anger.| He cannot lie. If it is not He who uttered His voice out of even the burning bush, it can be of no importance what fire you insist upon being understood. Even if it be but figurative fire, yet, from the very fact that he takes from my element illustrations for His own sense, He is mine, because He uses what is mine. The similitude of fire must belong to Him who owns the reality thereof. But He will Himself best explain the quality of that fire which He mentioned, when He goes on to say, |Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division.| It is written |a sword,| but Marcion makes an emendation of the word, just as if a division were not the work of the sword. He, therefore, who refused to give peace, intended also the fire of destruction. As is the combat, so is the burning. As is the sword, so is the flame. Neither is suitable for its lord. He says at last, |The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother-in-law against the daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against the mother-in-law.| Since this battle among the relatives was sung by the prophet's trumpet in the very words, I fear that Micah must have predicted it to Marcion's Christ! On this account He pronounced them |hypocrites,| because they could |discern the face of the sky and the earth, but could not distinguish this time,| when of course He ought to have been recognised, fulfilling (as he was) all things which had been predicted concerning them, and teaching them so. But then who could know the times of him of whom he had no evidence to prove his existence? Justly also does He upbraid them for |not even of themselves judging what is right.| Of old does He command by Zechariah, |Execute the judgment of truth and peace;| by Jeremiah, |Execute judgment and righteousness;| by Isaiah, |Judge the fatherless, plead for the widow,| charging it as a fault upon the vine of Sorech, that when |He looked for righteousness therefrom, there was only a cry| (of oppression). The same God who had taught them to act as He commanded them, was now requiring that they should act of their own accord. He who had sown the precept, was now pressing to an abundant harvest from it. But how absurd, that he should now be commanding them to judge righteously, who was destroying God the righteous Judge! For the Judge, who commits to prison, and allows no release out of it without the payment of |the very last mite,| they treat of in the person of the Creator, with the view of disparaging Him. Which cavil, however, I deem it necessary to meet with the same answer. For as often as the Creator's severity is paraded before us, so often is Christ (shown to be) His, to whom He urges submission by the motive of fear.