The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian
Chapter XIV.--The Divine Power Shown in Christ's Incarnation Meaning of St. Paul's Phrase. Likeness of Sinful Flesh. No Docetism in It. Resurrection of Our Real Bodies. A Wide Chasm Made in the Epistle by Marcion's Erasure. When the Jews are Upbraided by
If the Father |sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh,| it must not therefore be said that the flesh which He seemed to have was but a phantom. For he in a previous verse ascribed sin to the flesh, and made it out to be |the law of sin dwelling in his members,| and |warring against the law of the mind.| On this account, therefore, (does he mean to say that) the Son was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh, that He might redeem this sinful flesh by a like substance, even a fleshly one, which bare a resemblance to sinful flesh, although it was itself free from sin. Now this will be the very perfection of divine power to effect the salvation (of man) in a nature like his own. For it would be no great matter if the Spirit of God remedied the flesh; but when a flesh, which is the very copy of the sinning substance -- itself flesh also -- only without sin, (effects the remedy, then doubtless it is a great thing). The likeness, therefore, will have reference to the quality of the sinfulness, and not to any falsity of the substance. Because he would not have added the attribute |sinful,| if he meant the |likeness| to be so predicated of the substance as to deny the verity thereof; in that case he would only have used the word |flesh,| and omitted the |sinful.| But inasmuch as he has put the two together, and said |sinful flesh,| (or |flesh of sin,|) he has both affirmed the substance, that is, the flesh and referred the likeness to the fault of the substance, that is, to its sin. But even suppose that the likeness was predicated of the substance, the truth of the said substance will not be thereby denied. Why then call the true substance like? Because it is indeed true, only not of a seed of like condition with our own; but true still, as being of a nature not really unlike ours. And again, in contrary things there is no likeness. Thus the likeness of flesh would not be called spirit, because flesh is not susceptible of any likeness to spirit; but it would be called phantom, if it seemed to be that which it really was not. It is, however, called likeness, since it is what it seems to be. Now it is (what it seems to be), because it is on a par with the other thing (with which it is compared). But a phantom, which is merely such and nothing else, is not a likeness. The apostle, however, himself here comes to our aid; for, while explaining in what sense he would not have us |live in the flesh,| although in the flesh -- even by not living in the works of the flesh -- he shows that when he wrote the words, |Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,| it was not with the view of condemning the substance (of the flesh), but the works thereof; and because it is possible for these not to be committed by us whilst we are still in the flesh, they will therefore be properly chargeable, not on the substance of the flesh, but on its conduct. Likewise, if |the body indeed is dead because of sin| (from which statement we see that not the death of the soul is meant, but that of the body), |but the spirit is life because of righteousness,| it follows that this life accrues to that which incurred death because of sin, that is, as we have just seen, the body. Now the body is only restored to him who had lost it; so that the resurrection of the dead implies the resurrection of their bodies. He accordingly subjoins: |He that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies.| In these words he both affirmed the resurrection of the flesh (without which nothing can rightly be called body, nor can anything be properly regarded as mortal), and proved the bodily substance of Christ; inasmuch as our own mortal bodies will be quickened in precisely the same way as He was raised; and that was in no other way than in the body. I have here a very wide gulf of expunged Scripture to leap across; however, I alight on the place where the apostle bears record of Israel |that they have a zeal of God| -- their own God, of course -- |but not according to knowledge. For,| says he, |being ignorant of (the righteousness of) God, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God; for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.| Hereupon we shall be confronted with an argument of the heretic, that the Jews were ignorant of the superior God, since, in opposition to him, they set up their own righteousness -- that is, the righteousness of their law -- not receiving Christ, the end (or finisher) of the law. But how then is it that he bears testimony to their zeal for their own God, if it is not in respect of the same God that he upbraids them for their ignorance? They were affected indeed with zeal for God, but it was not an intelligent zeal: they were, in fact, ignorant of Him, because they were ignorant of His dispensations by Christ, who was to bring about the consummation of the law; and in this way did they maintain their own righteousness in opposition to Him. But so does the Creator Himself testify to their ignorance concerning Him: |Israel hath not known me; my people have not understood me;| and as to their preferring the establishment of their own righteousness, (the Creator again describes them as) |teaching for doctrines the commandments of men;| moreover, as |having gathered themselves together against the Lord and against His Christ| -- from ignorance of Him, of course. Now nothing can be expounded of another god which is applicable to the Creator; otherwise the apostle would not have been just in reproaching the Jews with ignorance in respect of a god of whom they knew nothing. For where had been their sin, if they only maintained the righteousness of their own God against one of whom they were ignorant? But he exclaims: |O the depth of the riches and the wisdom of God; how unsearchable also are His ways!| Whence this outburst of feeling? Surely from the recollection of the Scriptures, which he had been previously turning over, as well as from his contemplation of the mysteries which he had been setting forth above, in relation to the faith of Christ coming from the law. If Marcion had an object in his erasures, why does his apostle utter such an exclamation, because his god has no riches for him to contemplate? So poor and indigent was he, that he created nothing, predicted nothing -- in short, possessed nothing; for it was into the world of another God that he descended. The truth is, the Creator's resources and riches, which once had been hidden, were now disclosed. For so had He promised: |I will give to them treasures which have been hidden, and which men have not seen will I open to them.| Hence, then, came the exclamation, |O the depth of the riches and the wisdom of God!| For His treasures were now opening out. This is the purport of what Isaiah said, and of (the apostle's own) subsequent quotation of the self-same passage, of the prophet: |Who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor? Who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed to him again?| Now, (Marcion,) since you have expunged so much from the Scriptures, why did you retain these words, as if they too were not the Creator's words? But come now, let us see without mistake the precepts of your new god: |Abhor that which is evil, and cleave to that which is good.| Well, is the precept different in the Creator's teaching? |Take away the evil from you, depart from it, and be doing good.| Then again: |Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love.| Now is not this of the same import as: |Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thy self?| (Again, your apostle says:) |Rejoicing in hope;| that is, of God. So says the Creator's Psalmist: |It is better to hope in the Lord, than to hope even in princes.| |Patient in tribulation.| You have (this in) the Psalm: |The Lord hear thee in the day of tribulation.| |Bless, and curse not,| (says your apostle.) But what better teacher of this will you find than Him who created all things, and blessed them? |Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.| For against such a disposition Isaiah pronounces a woe. |Recompense to no man evil for evil.| (Like unto which is the Creator's precept:) |Thou shalt not remember thy brother's evil against thee.| (Again:) |Avenge not yourselves;| for it is written, |Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.| |Live peaceably with all men.| The retaliation of the law, therefore, permitted not retribution for an injury; it rather repressed any attempt thereat by the fear of a recompense. Very properly, then, did he sum up the entire teaching of the Creator in this precept of His: |Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.| Now, if this is the recapitulation of the law from the very law itself, I am at a loss to know who is the God of the law. I fear He must be Marcion's god (after all). If also the gospel of Christ is fulfilled in this same precept, but not the Creator's Christ, what is the use of our contending any longer whether Christ did or did not say, |I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil it?| In vain has (our man of) Pontus laboured to deny this statement. If the gospel has not fulfilled the law, then all I can say is, the law has fulfilled the gospel. But it is well that in a later verse he threatens us with |the judgment-seat of Christ,| -- the Judge, of course, and the Avenger, and therefore the Creator's (Christ). This Creator, too, however much he may preach up another god, he certainly sets forth for us as a Being to be served, if he holds Him thus up as an object to be feared.