The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian
Chapter XXIII.--Impossible that Marcion's Christ Should Reprove the Faithless Generation Such Loving Consideration for Infants as the True Christ Was Apt to Shew, Also Impossible for the Other. On the Three Different Characters Confronted and Instructed b
I take on myself the character of Israel. Let Marcion's Christ stand forth, and exclaim, |O faithless generation! how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?| He will immediately have to submit to this remonstrance from me: |Whoever you are, O stranger, first tell us who you are, from whom you come, and what right you have over us. Thus far, all you possess belongs to the Creator. Of course, if you come from Him, and are acting for Him, we will bear your reproof. But if you come from some other god, I should wish you to tell us what you have ever committed to us belonging to yourself, which it was our duty to believe, seeing that you are upbraiding us with faithlessness,' who have never yet revealed to us your own self. How long ago did you begin to treat with us, that you should be complaining of the delay? On what points have you borne with us, that you should adduce your patience? Like Æsop's ass, you are just come from the well, and are filling every place with your braying.| I assume, besides, the person of the disciple, against whom he has inveighed: |O perverse nation! how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?| This outburst of his I might, of course, retort upon him most justly in such words as these: |Whoever you are, O stranger, first tell us who you are, from whom you come, what right you have over us. Thus far, I suppose, you belong to the Creator, and so we have followed you, recognising in you all things which are His. Now, if you come from Him, we will bear your reproof. If, however, you are acting for another, prythee tell us what you have ever conferred upon us that is simply your own, which it had become our duty to believe, seeing that you reproach us with faithlessness,' although up to this moment you show us no credentials. How long since did you begin to plead with us, that you are charging us with delay? Wherein have you borne with us, that you should even boast of your patience? The ass has only just arrived from Æsop's well, and he is already braying.| Now who would not thus have rebutted the unfairness of the rebuke, if he had supposed its author to belong to him who had had no right as yet to complain? Except that not even He would have inveighed against them, if He had not dwelt among them of old in the law and by the prophets, and with mighty deeds and many mercies, and had always experienced them to be |faithless.| But, behold, Christ takes infants, and teaches how all ought to be like them, if they ever wish to be greater. The Creator, on the contrary, let loose bears against children, in order to avenge His prophet Elisha, who had been mocked by them. This antithesis is impudent enough, since it throws together things so different as infants and children, -- an age still innocent, and one already capable of discretion -- able to mock, if not to blaspheme. As therefore God is a just God, He spared not impious children, exacting as He does honour for every time of life, and especially, of course, from youth. And as God is good, He so loves infants as to have blessed the midwives in Egypt, when they protected the infants of the Hebrews which were in peril from Pharaoh's command. Christ therefore shares this kindness with the Creator. As indeed for Marcion's god, who is an enemy to marriage, how can he possibly seem to be a lover of little children, which are simply the issue of marriage? He who hates the seed must needs also detest the fruit. Yea, he ought to be deemed more ruthless than the king of Egypt. For whereas Pharaoh forbade infants to be brought up, he will not allow them even to be born, depriving them of their ten months' existence in the womb. And how much more credible it is, that kindness to little children should be attributed to Him who blessed matrimony for the procreation of mankind, and in such benediction included also the promise of connubial fruit itself, the first of which is that of infancy! The Creator, at the request of Elias, inflicts the blow of fire from heaven in the case of that false prophet (of Baalzebub). I recognise herein the severity of the Judge. And I, on the contrary, the severe rebuke of Christ on His disciples, when they were for inflicting a like visitation on that obscure village of the Samaritans. The heretic, too, may discover that this gentleness of Christ was promised by the selfsame severest Judge. |He shall not contend,| says He, |nor shall His voice be heard in the street; a bruised reed shall He not crush, and smoking flax shall He not quench.| Being of such a character, He was of course much the less disposed to burn men. For even at that time the Lord said to Elias, |He was not in the fire, but in the still small voice.| Well, but why does this most humane and merciful God reject the man who offers himself to Him as an inseparable companion? If it were from pride or from hypocrisy that he had said, |I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest,' then, by judicially reproving an act of either pride or hypocrisy as worthy of rejection, He performed the office of a Judge. And, of course, him whom He rejected He condemned to the loss of not following the Saviour. For as He calls to salvation him whom He does not reject, or him whom He voluntarily invites, so does He consign to perdition him whom He rejects. When, however, He answers the man, who alleged as an excuse his father's burial, |Let the dead bury their dead, but go thou and preach the kingdom of God,| He gave a clear confirmation to those two laws of the Creator -- that in Leviticus, which concerns the sacerdotal office, and forbids the priests to be present at the funerals even of their parents. |The priest,| says He, |shall not enter where there is any dead person; and for his father he shall not be defiled| ; as well as that in Numbers, which relates to the (Nazarite) vow of separation; for there he who devotes himself to God, among other things, is bidden |not to come at any dead body,| not even of his father, or his mother, or his brother. Now it was, I suppose, for the Nazarite and the priestly office that He intended this man whom He had been inspiring to preach the kingdom of God. Or else, if it be not so, he must be pronounced impious enough who, without the intervention of any precept of the law, commanded that burials of parents should be neglected by their sons. When, indeed, in the third case before us, (Christ) forbids the man |to look back| who wanted first |to bid his family farewell,| He only follows out the rule of the Creator. For this (retrospection) He had been against their making, whom He had rescued out of Sodom.