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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Chapter IV.--Another Instance of Marcion's Tampering with St. Paul's Text The Fulness of Time, Announced by the Apostle, Foretold by the Prophets. Mosaic Rites Abrogated by the Creator Himself. Marcion's Tricks About Abraham's Name. The Creator, by His Ch

The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian

Chapter IV.--Another Instance of Marcion's Tampering with St. Paul's Text The Fulness of Time, Announced by the Apostle, Foretold by the Prophets. Mosaic Rites Abrogated by the Creator Himself. Marcion's Tricks About Abraham's Name. The Creator, by His Ch

|But,| says he, |I speak after the manner of men: when we were children, we were placed in bondage under the elements of the world.| This, however, was not said |after the manner of men.| For there is no figure here, but literal truth. For (with respect to the latter clause of this passage), what child (in the sense, that is, in which the Gentiles are children) is not in bondage to the elements of the world, which he looks up to in the light of a god? With regard, however, to the former clause, there was a figure (as the apostle wrote it); because after he had said, |I speak after the manner of men,| he adds), |Though it be but a man's covenant, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.| For by the figure of the permanency of a human covenant he was defending the divine testament. |To Abraham were the promises made, and to his seed. He said not to seeds,' as of many; but as of one, to thy seed,' which is Christ.| Fie on Marcion's sponge! But indeed it is superfluous to dwell on what he has erased, when he may be more effectually confuted from that which he has retained. |But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son| -- the God, of course, who is the Lord of that very succession of times which constitutes an age; who also ordained, as |signs| of time, suns and moons and constellations and stars; who furthermore both predetermined and predicted that the revelation of His Son should be postponed to the end of the times. |It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain (of the house) of the Lord shall be manifested|; |and in the last days I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh| as Joel says. It was characteristic of Him (only) to wait patiently for the fulness of time, to whom belonged the end of time no less than the beginning. But as for that idle god, who has neither any work nor any prophecy, nor accordingly any time, to show for himself, what has he ever done to bring about the fulness of time, or to wait patiently its completion? If nothing, what an impotent state to have to wait for the Creator's time, in servility to the Creator! But for what end did He send His Son? |To redeem them that were under the law,| in other words, to |make the crooked ways straight, and the rough places smooth,| as Isaiah says -- in order that old things might pass away, and a new course begin, even |the new law out of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem,| and |that we might receive the adoption of sons,| that is, the Gentiles, who once were not sons. For He is to be |the light of the Gentiles,| and |in His name shall the Gentiles trust.| That we may have, therefore the assurance that we are the children of God, |He hath sent forth His Spirit into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.| For |in the last days,| saith He, |I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.|

Now, from whom comes this grace, but from Him who proclaimed the promise thereof? Who is (our) Father, but He who is also our Maker? Therefore, after such affluence (of grace), they should not have returned |to weak and beggarly elements.| By the Romans, however, the rudiments of learning are wont to be called elements. He did not therefore seek, by any depreciation of the mundane elements, to turn them away from their god, although, when he said just before, |Howbeit, then, ye serve them which by nature are no gods,| he censured the error of that physical or natural superstition which holds the elements to be god; but at the God of those elements he aimed not in this censure. He tells us himself clearly enough what he means by |elements,| even the rudiments of the law: |Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years| -- the sabbaths, I suppose, and |the preparations,| and the fasts, and the |high days.| For the cessation of even these, no less than of circumcision, was appointed by the Creator's decrees, who had said by Isaiah, |Your new moons, and your sabbaths, and your high days I cannot bear; your fasting, and feasts, and ceremonies my soul hateth;| also by Amos, |I hate, I despise your feast-days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies;| and again by Hosea, |I will cause to cease all her mirth, and her feast-days, and her sabbaths, and her new moons, and all her solemn assemblies.| The institutions which He set up Himself, you ask, did He then destroy? Yes, rather than any other. Or if another destroyed them, he only helped on the purpose of the Creator, by removing what even He had condemned. But this is not the place to discuss the question why the Creator abolished His own laws. It is enough for us to have proved that He intended such an abolition, that so it may be affirmed that the apostle determined nothing to the prejudice of the Creator, since the abolition itself proceeds from the Creator. But as, in the case of thieves, something of the stolen goods is apt to drop by the way, as a clue to their detection; so, as it seems to me, it has happened to Marcion: the last mention of Abraham's name he has left untouched (in the epistle), although no passage required his erasure more than this, even his partial alteration of the text. |For (it is written) that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bond maid, the other by a free woman; but he who was of the bond maid was born after the flesh, but he of the free woman was by promise: which things are allegorized| (that is to say, they presaged something besides the literal history); |for these are the two covenants,| or the two exhibitions (of the divine plans), as we have found the word interpreted, |the one from the Mount Sinai,| in relation to the synagogue of the Jews, according to the law, |which gendereth to bondage| -- |the other gendereth| (to liberty, being raised) above all principality, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but in that which is to come, |which is the mother of us all,| in which we have the promise of (Christ's) holy church; by reason of which he adds in conclusion: |So then, brethren, we are not children of the bond woman, but of the free.| In this passage he has undoubtedly shown that Christianity had a noble birth, being sprung, as the mystery of the allegory indicates, from that son of Abraham who was born of the free woman; whereas from the son of the bond maid came the legal bondage of Judaism. Both dispensations, therefore, emanate from that same God by whom, as we have found, they were both sketched out beforehand. When he speaks of |the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,| does not the very phrase indicate that He is the Liberator who was once the Master? For Galba himself never liberated slaves which were not his own, even when about to restore free men to their liberty. By Him, therefore, will liberty be bestowed, at whose command lay the enslaving power of the law. And very properly. It was not meet that those who had received liberty should be |entangled again with the yoke of bondage| -- that is, of the law; now that the Psalm had its prophecy accomplished: |Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us, since the rulers have gathered themselves together against the Lord and against His Christ.| All those, therefore, who had been delivered from the yoke of slavery he would earnestly have to obliterate the very mark of slavery -- even circumcision, on the authority of the prophet's prediction. He remembered how that Jeremiah had said, |Circumcise the foreskins of your heart;| as Moses likewise had enjoined, |Circumcise your hard hearts| -- not the literal flesh. If, now, he were for excluding circumcision, as the messenger of a new god, why does he say that |in Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision?| For it was his duty to prefer the rival principle of that which he was abolishing, if he had a mission from the god who was the enemy of circumcision.

Furthermore, since both circumcision and uncircumcision were attributed to the same Deity, both lost their power in Christ, by reason of the excellency of faith -- of that faith concerning which it had been written, |And in His name shall the Gentiles trust?| -- of that faith |which,| he says |worketh by love.| By this saying he also shows that the Creator is the source of that grace. For whether he speaks of the love which is due to God, or that which is due to one's neighbor -- in either case, the Creator's grace is meant: for it is He who enjoins the first in these words, |Thou shalt love God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength;| and also the second in another passage: |Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.| |But he that troubleth you shall have to bear judgment.| From what God? From (Marcion's) most excellent god? But he does not execute judgment. From the Creator? But neither will He condemn the maintainer of circumcision. Now, if none other but the Creator shall be found to execute judgment, it follows that only He, who has determined on the cessation of the law, shall be able to condemn the defenders of the law; and what, if he also affirms the law in that portion of it where it ought (to be permanent)? |For,| says he, |all the law is fulfilled in you by this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.'| If, indeed, he will have it that by the words |it is fulfilled| it is implied that the law no longer has to be fulfilled, then of course he does not mean that I should any more love my neighbour as myself, since this precept must have ceased together with the law. But no! we must evermore continue to observe this commandment. The Creator's law, therefore, has received the approval of the rival god, who has, in fact, bestowed upon it not the sentence of a summary dismissal, but the favour of a compendious acceptance; the gist of it all being concentrated in this one precept! But this condensation of the law is, in fact, only possible to Him who is the Author of it. When, therefore, he says, |Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,| since this cannot be accomplished except a man love his neighbour as himself, it is evident that the precept, |Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself| (which, in fact, underlies the injunction, |Bear ye one another's burdens|), is really |the law of Christ,| though literally the law of the Creator. Christ, therefore, is the Creator's Christ, as Christ's law is the Creator's law. |Be not deceived, God is not mocked.| But Marcion's god can be mocked; for he knows not how to be angry, or how to take vengeance. |For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.| It is then the God of recompense and judgment who threatens this. |Let us not be weary in well-doing;| and |as we have opportunity, let us do good.| Deny now that the Creator has given a commandment to do good, and then a diversity of precept may argue a difference of gods. If, however, He also announces recompense, then from the same God must come the harvest both of death and of life. But |in due time we shall reap;| because in Ecclesiastes it is said, |For everything there will be a time.| Moreover, |the world is crucified unto me,| who am a servant of the Creator -- |the world,| (I say,) but not the God who made the world -- |and I unto the world,| not unto the God who made the world. The world, in the apostle's sense, here means life and conversation according to worldly principles; it is in renouncing these that we and they are mutually crucified and mutually slain. He calls them |persecutors of Christ.| But when he adds, that |he bare in his body the scars of Christ| -- since scars, of course, are accidents of body -- he therefore expressed the truth, that the flesh of Christ is not putative, but real and substantial, the scars of which he represents as borne upon his body.

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