The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian
Chapter XIII.--The Epistle to the Romans. St. Paul Cannot Help Using Phrases Which Bespeak the Justice of God, Even When He is Eulogizing the Mercies of the Gospel. Marcion Particularly Hard in Mutilation of This Epistle. Yet Our Author Argues on Common G
Since my little work is approaching its termination, I must treat but briefly the points which still occur, whilst those which have so often turned up must be put aside. I regret still to have to contend about the law -- after I have so often proved that its replacement (by the gospel) affords no argument for another god, predicted as it was indeed in Christ, and in the Creator's own plans ordained for His Christ. (But I must revert to that discussion) so far as (the apostle leads me, for) this very epistle looks very much as if it abrogated the law. We have, however, often shown before now that God is declared by the apostle to be a Judge; and that in the Judge is implied an Avenger; and in the Avenger, the Creator. And so in the passage where he says: |I am not ashamed of the gospel (of Christ): for it is the power of god unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek; for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith,| he undoubtedly ascribes both the gospel and salvation to Him whom (in accordance with our heretic's own distinction) I have called the just God, not the good one. It is He who removes (men) from confidence in the law to faith in the gospel -- that is to say, His own law and His own gospel. When, again, he declares that |the wrath (of God) is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness,| (I ask) the wrath of what God? Of the Creator certainly. The truth, therefore, will be His, whose is also the wrath, which has to be revealed to avenge the truth. Likewise, when adding, |We are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth,| he both vindicated that wrath from which comes this judgment for the truth, and at the same time afforded another proof that the truth emanates from the same God whose wrath he attested, by witnessing to His judgment. Marcion's averment is quite a different matter, that the Creator in anger avenges Himself on the truth of the rival god which had been detained in unrighteousness. But what serious gaps Marcion has made in this epistle especially, by withdrawing whole passages at his will, will be clear from the unmutilated text of our own copy. It is enough for my purpose to accept in evidence of its truth what he has seen fit to leave unerased, strange instances as they are also of his negligence and blindness. If, then, God will judge the secrets of men -- both of those who have sinned in the law, and of those who have sinned without law (inasmuch as they who know not the law yet do by nature the things contained in the law) -- surely the God who shall judge is He to whom belong both the law, and that nature which is the rule to them who know not the law. But how will He conduct this judgment? |According to my gospel,| says (the apostle), |by (Jesus) Christ.| So that both the gospel and Christ must be His, to whom appertain the law and the nature which are to be vindicated by the gospel and Christ -- even at that judgment of God which, as he previously said, was to be according to truth. The wrath, therefore, which is to vindicate truth, can only be revealed from heaven by the God of wrath; so that this sentence, which is quite in accordance with that previous one wherein the judgment is declared to be the Creator's, cannot possibly be ascribed to another god who is not a judge, and is incapable of wrath. It is only consistent in Him amongst whose attributes are found the judgment and the wrath of which I am speaking, and to whom of necessity must also appertain the media whereby these attributes are to be carried into effect, even the gospel and Christ. Hence his invective against the transgressors of the law, who teach that men should not steal, and yet practise theft themselves. (This invective he utters) in perfect homage to the law of God, not as if he meant to censure the Creator Himself with having commanded a fraud to be practised against the Egyptians to get their gold and silver at the very time when He was forbidding men to steal, -- adopting such methods as they are apt (shamelessly) to charge upon Him in other particulars also. Are we then to suppose that the apostle abstained through fear from openly calumniating God, from whom notwithstanding He did not hesitate to withdraw men? Well, but he had gone so far in his censure of the Jews, as to point against them the denunciation of the prophet, |Through you the name of God is blasphemed (among the Gentiles).| But how absurd, that he should himself blaspheme Him for blaspheming whom he upbraids them as evil-doers! He prefers even circumcision of heart to neglect of it in the flesh. Now it is quite within the purpose of the God of the law that circumcision should be that of the heart, not in the flesh; in the spirit, and not in the letter. Since this is the circumcision recommended by Jeremiah: |Circumcise (yourselves to the Lord, and take away) the foreskins of your heart;| and even of Moses: |Circumcise, therefore, the hardness of your heart,| -- the Spirit which circumcises the heart will proceed from Him who prescribed the letter also which clips the flesh; and |the Jew which is one inwardly| will be a subject of the self-same God as he also is who is |a Jew outwardly;| because the apostle would have preferred not to have mentioned a Jew at all, unless he were a servant of the God of the Jews. It was once the law; now it is |the righteousness of God which is by the faith of (Jesus) Christ.| What means this distinction? Has your god been subserving the interests of the Creator's dispensation, by affording time to Him and to His law? Is the |Now| in the hands of Him to whom belonged the |Then|? Surely, then, the law was His, whose is now the righteousness of God. It is a distinction of dispensations, not of gods. He enjoins those who are justified by faith in Christ and not by the law to have peace with God. With what God? Him whose enemies we have never, in any dispensation, been? Or Him against whom we have rebelled, both in relation to His written law and His law of nature? Now, as peace is only possible towards Him with whom there once was war, we shall be both justified by Him, and to Him also will belong the Christ, in whom we are justified by faith, and through whom alone God's enemies can ever be reduced to peace. |Moreover,| says he, |the law entered, that the offence might abound.| And wherefore this? |In order,| he says, |that (where sin abounded), grace might much more abound.| Whose grace, if not of that God from whom also came the law? Unless it be, forsooth, that the Creator intercalated His law for the mere purpose of producing some employment for the grace of a rival god, an enemy to Himself (I had almost said, a god unknown to Him), |that as sin had| in His own dispensation |reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto (eternal) life by Jesus Christ,| His own antagonist! For this (I suppose it was, that) the law of the Creator had |concluded all under sin,| and had brought in |all the world as guilty (before God),| and had |stopped every mouth,| so that none could glory through it, in order that grace might be maintained to the glory of the Christ, not of the Creator, but of Marcion! I may here anticipate a remark about the substance of Christ, in the prospect of a question which will now turn up. For he says that |we are dead to the law.| It may be contended that Christ's body is indeed a body, but not exactly flesh. Now, whatever may be the substance, since he mentions |the body of Christ,| whom he immediately after states to have been |raised from the dead,| none other body can be understood than that of the flesh, in respect of which the law was called (the law) of death. But, behold, he bears testimony to the law, and excuses it on the ground of sin: |What shall we say, therefore? Is the law sin? God forbid.| Fie on you, Marcion. |God forbid!| (See how) the apostle recoils from all impeachment of the law. I, however, have no acquaintance with sin except through the law. But how high an encomium of the law (do we obtain) from this fact, that by it there comes to light the latent presence of sin! It was not the law, therefore, which led me astray, but |sin, taking occasion by the commandment.| Why then do you, (O Marcion,) impute to the God of the law what His apostle dares not impute even to the law itself? Nay, he adds a climax: |The law is holy, and its commandment just and good.| Now if he thus reverences the Creator's law, I am at a loss to know how he can destroy the Creator Himself. Who can draw a distinction, and say that there are two gods, one just and the other good, when He ought to be believed to be both one and the other, whose commandment is both |just and good?| Then, again, when affirming the law to be |spiritual| he thereby implies that it is prophetic, and that it is figurative. Now from even this circumstance I am bound to conclude that Christ was predicted by the law but figuratively, so that indeed He could not be recognised by all the Jews.