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Image Map : Christian Books : Chapter XV.--The First Epistle to the Thessalonians The Shorter Epistles Pungent in Sense and Very Valuable. St. Paul Upbraids the Jews for the Death First of Their Prophets and Then of Christ. This a Presumption that Both Christ and the Prophets Pertaine

The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian

Chapter XV.--The First Epistle to the Thessalonians The Shorter Epistles Pungent in Sense and Very Valuable. St. Paul Upbraids the Jews for the Death First of Their Prophets and Then of Christ. This a Presumption that Both Christ and the Prophets Pertaine

I shall not be sorry to bestow attention on the shorter epistles also. Even in brief works there is much pungency. The Jews had slain their prophets. I may ask, What has this to do with the apostle of the rival god, one so amiable withal, who could hardly be said to condemn even the failings of his own people; and who, moreover, has himself some hand in making away with the same prophets whom he is destroying? What injury did Israel commit against him in slaying those whom he too has reprobated, since he was the first to pass a hostile sentence on them? But Israel sinned against their own God. He upbraided their iniquity to whom the injured God pertains; and certainly he is anything but the adversary of the injured Deity. Else he would not have burdened them with the charge of killing even the Lord, in the words, |Who both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets,| although (the pronoun) their own be an addition of the heretics. Now, what was there so very acrimonious in their killing Christ the proclaimer of the new god, after they had put to death also the prophets of their own god? The fact, however, of their having slain the Lord and His servants, is put as a case of climax. Now, if it were the Christ of one god and the prophets of another god whom they slew, he would certainly have placed the impious crimes on the same level, instead of mentioning them in the way of a climax; but they did not admit of being put on the same level: the climax, therefore, was only possible by the sin having been in fact committed against one and the same Lord in the two respective circumstances. To one and the same Lord, then, belonged Christ and the prophets. What that |sanctification of ours| is, which he declares to be |the will of God,| you may discover from the opposite conduct which he forbids. That we should |abstain from fornication,| not from marriage; that every one |should know how to possess his vessel in honour.| In what way? |Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles.| Concupiscence, however, is not ascribed to marriage even among the Gentiles, but to extravagant, unnatural, and enormous sins. The law of nature is opposed to luxury as well as to grossness and uncleanness; it does not forbid connubial intercourse, but concupiscence; and it takes care of our vessel by the honourable estate of matrimony. This passage (of the apostle) I would treat in such a way as to maintain the superiority of the other and higher sanctity, preferring continence and virginity to marriage, but by no means prohibiting the latter. For my hostility is directed against those who are for destroying the God of marriage, not those who follow after chastity. He says that those who |remain unto the coming of Christ,| along with |the dead in Christ, shall rise first,| being |caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.| I find it was in their foresight of all this, that the heavenly intelligences gazed with admiration on |the Jerusalem which is above,| and by the mouth of Isaiah said long ago: |Who are these that fly as clouds, and as doves with their young ones, unto me?| Now, as Christ has prepared for us this ascension into heaven, He must be the Christ of whom Amos spoke: |It is He who builds His ascent up to the heavens,| even for Himself and His people. Now, from whom shall I expect (the fulfilment of) all this, except from Him whom I have heard give the promise thereof? What |spirit| does he forbid us to |quench,| and what |prophesyings| to |despise?| Not the Creator's spirit, nor the Creator's prophesyings, Marcion of course replies. For he has already quenched and despised the thing which he destroys, and is unable to forbid what he has despised. It is then incumbent on Marcion now to display in his church that spirit of his god which must not be quenched, and the prophesyings which must not be despised. And since he has made such a display as he thinks fit, let him know that we shall challenge it whatever it may be to the rule of the grace and power of the Spirit and the prophets -- namely, to foretell the future, to reveal the secrets of the heart, and to explain mysteries. And when he shall have failed to produce and give proof of any such criterion, we will then on our side bring out both the Spirit and the prophecies of the Creator, which utter predictions according to His will. Thus it will be clearly seen of what the apostle spoke, even of those things which were to happen in the church of his God; and as long as He endures, so long also does His Spirit work, and so long are His promises repeated. Come now, you who deny the salvation of the flesh, and who, whenever there occurs the specific mention of body in a case of this sort, interpret it as meaning anything rather than the substance of the flesh, (tell me) how is it that the apostle has given certain distinct names to all (our faculties), and has comprised them all in one prayer for their safety, desiring that our |spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord and Saviour (Jesus) Christ?| Now he has here propounded the soul and the body as two several and distinct things. For although the soul has a kind of body of a quality of its own, just as the spirit has, yet as the soul and the body are distinctly named, the soul has its own peculiar appellation, not requiring the common designation of body. This is left for |the flesh,| which having no proper name (in this passage), necessarily makes use of the common designation. Indeed, I see no other substance in man, after spirit and soul, to which the term body can be applied except |the flesh.| This, therefore, I understand to be meant by the word |body| -- as often as the latter is not specifically named. Much more do I so understand it in the present passage, where the flesh is expressly called by the name |body.|
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