The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian
Chapter XI.--The Second Epistle to the Corinthians The Creator the Father of Mercies. Shown to Be Such in the Old Testament, and Also in Christ. The Newness of the New Testament. The Veil of Obdurate Blindness Upon Israel, Not Reprehensible on Marcion's P
If, owing to the fault of human error, the word God has become a common name (since in the world there are said and believed to be |gods many| ), yet |the blessed God,| (who is |the Father) of our Lord Jesus Christ,| will be understood to be no other God than the Creator, who both blessed all things (that He had made), as you find in Genesis, and is Himself |blessed by all things,| as Daniel tells us. Now, if the title of Father may be claimed for (Marcion's) sterile god, how much more for the Creator? To none other than Him is it suitable, who is also |the Father of mercies,| and (in the prophets) has been described as |full of compassion, and gracious, and plenteous in mercy.| In Jonah you find the signal act of His mercy, which He showed to the praying Ninevites. How inflexible was He at the tears of Hezekiah! How ready to forgive Ahab, the husband of Jezebel, the blood of Naboth, when he deprecated His anger. How prompt in pardoning David on his confession of his sin -- preferring, indeed, the sinner's repentance to his death, of course because of His gracious attribute of mercy. Now, if Marcion's god has exhibited or proclaimed any such thing as this, I will allow him to be |the Father of mercies.| Since, however, he ascribes to him this title only from the time he has been revealed, as if he were the father of mercies from the time only when he began to liberate the human race, then we on our side, too, adopt the same precise date of his alleged revelation; but it is that we may deny him! It is then not competent to him to ascribe any quality to his god, whom indeed he only promulged by the fact of such an ascription; for only if it were previously evident that his god had an existence, could he be permitted to ascribe an attribute to him. The ascribed attribute is only an accident; but accidents are preceded by the statement of the thing itself of which they are predicated, especially when another claims the attribute which is ascribed to him who has not been previously shown to exist. Our denial of his existence will be all the more peremptory, because of the fact that the attribute which is alleged in proof of it belongs to that God who has been already revealed. Therefore |the New Testament| will appertain to none other than Him who promised it -- if not |its letter, yet its spirit;| and herein will lie its newness. Indeed, He who had engraved its letter in stones is the same as He who had said of its spirit, |I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.| Even if |the letter killeth, yet the Spirit giveth life;| and both belong to Him who says: |I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal.| We have already made good the Creator's claim to this twofold character of judgment and goodness -- |killing in the letter| through the law, and |quickening in the Spirit| through the Gospel. Now these attributes, however different they be, cannot possibly make two gods; for they have already (in the prevenient dispensation of the Old Testament) been found to meet in One. He alludes to Moses' veil, covered with which |his face could not be stedfastly seen by the children of Israel.| Since he did this to maintain the superiority of the glory of the New Testament, which is permanent in its glory, over that of the Old, |which was to be done away,| this fact gives support to my belief which exalts the Gospel above the law and you must look well to it that it does not even more than this. For only there is superiority possible where was previously the thing over which superiority can be affirmed. But then he says, |But their minds were blinded| -- of the world; certainly not the Creator's mind, but the minds of the people which are in the world. Of Israel he says, Even unto this day the same veil is upon their heart;| showing that the veil which was on the face of Moses was a figure of the veil which is on the heart of the nation still; because even now Moses is not seen by them in heart, just as he was not then seen by them in eye. But what concern has Paul with the veil which still obscures Moses from their view, if the Christ of the Creator, whom Moses predicted, is not yet come? How are the hearts of the Jews represented as still covered and veiled, if the predictions of Moses relating to Christ, in whom it was their duty to believe through him, are as yet unfulfilled? What had the apostle of a strange Christ to complain of, if the Jews failed in understanding the mysterious announcements of their own God, unless the veil which was upon their hearts had reference to that blindness which concealed from their eyes the Christ of Moses? Then, again, the words which follow, But when it shall turn to the Lord, the evil shall be taken away,| properly refer to the Jew, over whose gaze Moses' veil is spread, to the effect that, when he is turned to the faith of Christ, he will understand how Moses spoke of Christ. But how shall the veil of the Creator be taken away by the Christ of another god, whose mysteries the Creator could not possibly have veiled -- unknown mysteries, as they were of an unknown god? So he says that |we now with open face| (meaning the candour of the heart, which in the Jews had been covered with a veil), |beholding Christ, are changed into the same image, from that glory| (wherewith Moses was transfigured as by the glory of the Lord) |to another glory.| By thus setting forth the glory which illumined the person of Moses from his interview with God, and the veil which concealed the same from the infirmity of the people, and by superinducing thereupon the revelation and the glory of the Spirit in the person of Christ -- |even as,| to use his words, |by the Spirit of the Lord| -- he testifies that the whole Mosaic system was a figure of Christ, of whom the Jews indeed were ignorant, but who is known to us Christians. We are quite aware that some passages are open to ambiguity, from the way in which they are read, or else from their punctuation, when there is room for these two causes of ambiguity. The latter method has been adopted by Marcion, by reading the passage which follows, |in whom the God of this world,| as if it described the Creator as the God of this world, in order that he may, by these words, imply that there is another God for the other world. We, however, say that the passage ought to be punctuated with a comma after God, to this effect: |In whom God hath blinded the eyes of the unbelievers of this world.| |In whom| means the Jewish unbelievers, from some of whom the gospel is still hidden under Moses' veil. Now it is these whom God had threatened for |loving Him indeed with the lip, whilst their heart was far from Him,| in these angry words: |Ye shall hear with your ears, and not understand; and see with your eyes, but not perceive;| and, |If ye will not believe, ye shall not understand;| and again, |I will take away the wisdom of their wise men, and bring to nought the understanding of their prudent ones.| But these words, of course, He did not pronounce against them for concealing the gospel of the unknown God. At any rate, if there is a God of this world, He blinds the heart of the unbelievers of this world, because they have not of their own accord recognised His Christ, who ought to be understood from His Scriptures. Content with my advantage, I can willingly refrain from noticing to any greater length this point of ambiguous punctuation, so as not to give my adversary any advantage, indeed, I might have wholly omitted the discussion. A simpler answer I shall find ready to hand in interpreting |the god of this world| of the devil, who once said, as the prophet describes him: |I will be like the Most High; I will exalt my throne in the clouds.| The whole superstition, indeed, of this world has got into his hands, so that he blinds effectually the hearts of unbelievers, and of none more than the apostate Marcion's. Now he did not observe how much this clause of the sentence made against him: |For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to (give) the light of the knowledge (of His glory) in the face of (Jesus) Christ.| Now who was it that said; |Let there be light?| And who was it that said to Christ concerning giving light to the world: |I have set Thee as a light to the Gentiles| -- to them, that is, |who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death?| (None else, surely, than He), to whom the Spirit in the Psalm answers, in His foresight of the future, saying, |The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, hath been displayed upon us.| Now the countenance (or person ) of the Lord here is Christ. Wherefore the apostle said above: |Christ, who is the image of God.| Since Christ, then, is the person of the Creator, who said, |Let there be light,| it follows that Christ and the apostles, and the gospel, and the veil, and Moses -- nay, the whole of the dispensations -- belong to the God who is the Creator of this world, according to the testimony of the clause (above adverted to), and certainly not to him who never said, |Let there be light.| I here pass over discussion about another epistle, which we hold to have been written to the Ephesians, but the heretics to the Laodiceans. In it he tells them to remember, that at the time when they were Gentiles they were without Christ, aliens from (the commonwealth of) Israel, without intercourse, without the covenants and any hope of promise, nay, without God, even in his own world, as the Creator thereof. Since therefore he said, that the Gentiles were without God, whilst their god was the devil, not the Creator, it is clear that he must be understood to be the lord of this world, whom the Gentiles received as their god -- not the Creator, of whom they were in ignorance. But how does it happen, that |the treasure which we have in these earthen vessels of ours| should not be regarded as belonging to the God who owns the vessels? Now since God's glory is, that so great a treasure is contained in earthen vessels, and since these earthen vessels are of the Creator's make, it follows that the glory is the Creator's; nay, since these vessels of His smack so much of the excellency of the power of God, that power itself must be His also! Indeed, all these things have been consigned to the said |earthen vessels| for the very purpose that His excellence might be manifested forth. Henceforth, then, the rival god will have no claim to the glory, and consequently none to the power. Rather, dishonour and weakness will accrue to him, because the earthen vessels with which he had nothing to do have received all the excellency! Well, then, if it be in these very earthen vessels that he tells us we have to endure so great sufferings, in which we bear about with us the very dying of God, (Marcion's) god is really ungrateful and unjust, if he does not mean to restore this same substance of ours at the resurrection, wherein so much has been endured in loyalty to him, in which Christ's very death is borne about, wherein too the excellency of his power is treasured. For he gives prominence to the statement, |That the life also of Christ may be manifested in our body,| as a contrast to the preceding, that His death is borne about in our body. Now of what life of Christ does he here speak? Of that which we are now living? Then how is it, that in the words which follow he exhorts us not to the things which are seen and are temporal, but to those which are not seen and are eternal -- in other words, not to the present, but to the future? But if it be of the future life of Christ that he speaks, intimating that it is to be made manifest in our body, then he has clearly predicted the resurrection of the flesh. He says, too, that |our outward man perishes,| not meaning by an eternal perdition after death, but by labours and sufferings, in reference to which he previously said, |For which cause we will not faint.| Now, when he adds of |the inward man| also, that it |is renewed day by day,| he demonstrates both issues here -- the wasting away of the body by the wear and tear of its trials, and the renewal of the soul by its contemplation of the promises.