The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian
Chapter XVIII.--Concerning the Centurion's Faith The Raising of the Widow's Son. John Baptist, and His Message to Christ; And the Woman Who Was a Sinner. Proofs Extracted from All of the Relation of Christ to the Creator.
Likewise, when extolling the centurion's faith, how incredible a thing it is, that He should confess that He had |found so great a faith not even in Israel,| to whom Israel's faith was in no way interesting! But not from the fact (here stated by Christ) could it have been of any interest to Him to approve and compare what was hitherto crude, nay, I might say, hitherto naught. Why, however, might He not have used the example of faith in another god? Because, if He had done so, He would have said that no such faith had ever had existence in Israel; but as the case stands, He intimates that He ought to have found so great a faith in Israel, inasmuch as He had indeed come for the purpose of finding it, being in truth the God and Christ of Israel, and had now stigmatized it, only as one who would enforce and uphold it. If, indeed, He had been its antagonist, He would have preferred finding it to be such faith, having come to weaken and destroy it rather than to approve of it. He raised also the widow's son from death. This was not a strange miracle. The Creator's prophets had wrought such; then why not His Son much rather? Now, so evidently had the Lord Christ introduced no other god for the working of so momentous a miracle as this, that all who were present gave glory to the Creator, saying: |A great prophet is risen up among us, and God hath visited His people.| What God? He, of course, whose people they were, and from whom had come their prophets. But if they glorified the Creator, and Christ (on hearing them, and knowing their meaning) refrained from correcting them even in their very act of invoking the Creator in that vast manifestation of His glory in this raising of the dead, undoubtedly He either announced no other God but Him, whom He thus permitted to be honoured in His own beneficent acts and miracles, or else how happens it that He quietly permitted these persons to remain so long in their error, especially as He came for the very purpose to cure them of their error? But John is offended when he hears of the miracles of Christ, as of an alien god. Well, I on my side will first explain the reason of his offence, that I may the more easily explode the scandal of our heretic. Now, that the very Lord Himself of all might, the Word and Spirit of the Father, was operating and preaching on earth, it was necessary that the portion of the Holy Spirit which, in the form of the prophetic gift, had been through John preparing the ways of the Lord, should now depart from John, and return back again of course to the Lord, as to its all-embracing original. Therefore John, being now an ordinary person, and only one of the many, was offended indeed as a man, but not because he expected or thought of another Christ as teaching or doing nothing new, for he was not even expecting such a one. Nobody will entertain doubts about any one whom (since he knows him not to exist) he has no expectation or thought of. Now John was quite sure that there was no other God but the Creator, even as a Jew, especially as a prophet. Whatever doubt he felt was evidently rather entertained about Him whom he knew indeed to exist but knew not whether He were the very Christ. With this fear, therefore, even John asks the question, |Art thou He that should come, or look we for another?| -- simply inquiring whether He was come as He whom he was looking for. |Art thou He that should come?| i.e. Art thou the coming One? |or look we for another?| i.e. Is He whom we are expecting some other than Thou, if Thou art not He whom we expect to come? For he was supposing, as all men then thought, from the similarity of the miraculous evidences, that a prophet might possibly have been meanwhile sent, from whom the Lord Himself, whose coming was then expected, was different, and to whom He was superior. And there lay John's difficulty. He was in doubt whether He was actually come whom all men were looking for; whom, moreover, they ought to have recognised by His predicted works, even as the Lord sent word to John, that it was by means of these very works that He was to be recognised. Now, inasmuch as these predictions evidently related to the Creator's Christ -- as we have proved in the examination of each of them -- it was perverse enough, if he gave himself out to be not the Christ of the Creator, and rested the proof of his statement on those very evidences whereby he was urging his claims to be received as the Creator's Christ. Far greater still is his perverseness when, not being the Christ of John, he yet bestows on John his testimony, affirming him to be a prophet, nay more, his messenger, applying to him the Scripture, |Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.| He graciously adduced the prophecy in the superior sense of the alternative mentioned by the perplexed John, in order that, by affirming that His own precursor was already come in the person of John, He might quench the doubt which lurked in his question: |Art thou He that should come, or look we for another?| Now that the forerunner had fulfilled his mission, and the way of the Lord was prepared, He ought now to be acknowledged as that (Christ) for whom the forerunner had made ready the way. That forerunner was indeed |greater than all of women born;| but for all that, He who was least in the kingdom of God was not subject to him; as if the kingdom in which the least person was greater than John belonged to one God, while John, who was greater than all of women born, belonged himself to another God. For whether He speaks of any |least person| by reason of his humble position, or of Himself, as being thought to be less than John -- since all were running into the wilderness after John rather than after Christ (|What went ye out into the wilderness to see?| ) -- the Creator has equal right to claim as His own both John, greater than any born of women, and Christ, or every |least person in the kingdom of heaven,| who was destined to be greater than John in that kingdom, although equally pertaining to the Creator, and who would be so much greater than the prophet, because he would not have been offended at Christ, an infirmity which then lessened the greatness of John. We have already spoken of the forgiveness of sins. The behaviour of |the woman which was a sinner,| when she covered the Lord's feet with her kisses, bathed them with her tears, wiped them with the hairs of her head, anointed them with ointment, produced an evidence that what she handled was not an empty phantom, but a really solid body, and that her repentance as a sinner deserved forgiveness according to the mind of the Creator, who is accustomed to prefer mercy to sacrifice. But even if the stimulus of her repentance proceeded from her faith, she heard her justification by faith through her repentance pronounced in the words, |Thy faith hath saved thee,| by Him who had declared by Habakkuk, |The just shall live by his faith.|