The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian
Chapter XXXI.--Christ's Advice to Invite the Poor in Accordance with Isaiah The Parable of the Great Supper a Pictorial Sketch of the Creator's Own Dispensations of Mercy and Grace. The Rejections of the Invitation Paralleled by Quotations from the Old Te
What kind of persons does He bid should be invited to a dinner or a supper? Precisely such as he had pointed out by Isaiah: |Deal thy bread to the hungry man; and the beggars -- even such as have no home -- bring in to thine house,| because, no doubt, they are |unable to recompense| your act of humanity. Now, since Christ forbids the recompense to be expected now, but promises it |at the resurrection,| this is the very plan of the Creator, who dislikes those who love gifts and follow after reward. Consider also to which deity is better suited the parable of him who issued invitations: |A certain man made a great supper, and bade many.| The preparation for the supper is no doubt a figure of the abundant provision of eternal life. I first remark, that strangers, and persons unconnected by ties of relationship, are not usually invited to a supper; but that members of the household and family are more frequently the favoured guests. To the Creator, then, it belonged to give the invitation, to whom also appertained those who were to be invited -- whether considered as men, through their descent from Adam, or as Jews, by reason of their fathers; not to him who possessed no claim to them either by nature or prerogative. My next remark is, if He issues the invitations who has prepared the supper, then, in this sense the supper is the Creator's, who sent to warn the guests. These had been indeed previously invited by the fathers, but were to be admonished by the prophets. It certainly is not the feast of him who never sent a messenger to warn -- who never did a thing before towards issuing an invitation, but came down himself on a sudden -- only then beginning to be known, when already giving his invitation; only then inviting, when already compelling to his banquet; appointing one and the same hour both for the supper and the invitation. But when invited, they excuse themselves. And fairly enough, if the invitation came from the other god, because it was so sudden; if, however, the excuse was not a fair one, then the invitation was not a sudden one. Now, if the invitation was not a sudden one, it must have been given by the Creator -- even by Him of old time, whose call they had at last refused. They first refused it when they said to Aaron, |Make us gods, which shall go before us;| and again, afterwards, when |they heard indeed with the ear, but did not understand| their calling of God. In a manner most germane to this parable, He said by Jeremiah: |Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people; and ye shall walk in all my ways, which I have commanded you.| This is the invitation of God. |But,| says He, |they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear.| This is the refusal of the people. |They departed, and walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart.| |I have bought a field -- and I have bought some oxen -- and I have married a wife.| And still He urges them: |I have sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early even before daylight.| The Holy Spirit is here meant, the admonisher of the guests. |Yet my people hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck.| This was reported to the Master of the family. Then He was moved (He did well to be moved; for, as Marcion denies emotion to his god, He must be therefore my God), and commanded them to invite out of |the streets and lanes of the city.| Let us see whether this is not the same in purport as His words by Jeremiah: |Have I been a wilderness to the house of Israel, or a land left uncultivated?| That is to say: |Then have I none whom I may call to me; have I no place whence I may bring them?| |Since my people have said, We will come no more unto thee.| Therefore He sent out to call others, but from the same city. My third remark is this, that although the place abounded with people, He yet commanded that they gather men from the highways and the hedges. In other words, we are now gathered out of the Gentile strangers; with that jealous resentment, no doubt, which He expressed in Deuteronomy: |I will hide my face from them, and I will show them what shall happen in the last days (how that others shall possess their place); for they are a froward generation, children in whom is no faith. They have moved me to jealousy by that which is no god, and they have provoked me to anger with their idols; and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people: I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation| -- even with us, whose hope the Jews still entertain. But this hope the Lord says they should not realize; |Sion being left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers,| since the nation rejected the latest invitation to Christ. (Now, I ask,) after going through all this course of the Creator's dispensation and prophecies, what there is in it which can possibly be assigned to him who has done all his work at one hasty stroke, and possesses neither the Creator's course nor His dispensation in harmony with the parable? Or, again in what will consist his first invitation, and what his admonition at the second stage? Some at first would surely decline; others afterwards must have accepted.| But now he comes to invite both parties promiscuously out of the city, out of the hedges, contrary to the drift of the parable. It is impossible for him now to condemn as scorners of his invitation those whom he has never yet invited, and whom he is approaching with so much earnestness. If, however, he condemns them beforehand as about to reject his call, then beforehand he also predicts the election of the Gentiles in their stead. Certainly he means to come the second time for the very purpose of preaching to the heathen. But even if he does mean to come again, I imagine it will not be with the intention of any longer inviting guests, but of giving to them their places. Meanwhile, you who interpret the call to this supper as an invitation to a heavenly banquet of spiritual satiety and pleasure, must remember that the earthly promises also of wine and oil and corn, and even of the city, are equally employed by the Creator as figures of spiritual things.