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The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian

Chapter III.--St. Paul Quite in Accordance with St. Peter and Other Apostles of the Circumcision His Censure of St. Peter Explained, and Rescued from Marcion's Misapplication. The Strong Protests of This Epistle Against Judaizers. Yet Its Teaching is Show

But with regard to the countenance of Peter and the rest of the apostles, he tells us that |fourteen years after he went up to Jerusalem,| in order to confer with them about the rule which he followed in his gospel, lest perchance he should all those years have been running, and be running still, in vain, (which would be the case,) of course, if his preaching of the gospel fell short of their method. So great had been his desire to be approved and supported by those whom you wish on all occasions to be understood as in alliance with Judaism! When indeed he says, that |neither was Titus circumcised,| he for the first time shows us that circumcision was the only question connected with the maintenance of the law, which had been as yet agitated by those whom he therefore calls |false brethren unawares brought in.| These persons went no further than to insist on a continuance of the law, retaining unquestionably a sincere belief in the Creator. They perverted the gospel in their teaching, not indeed by such a tampering with the Scripture as should enable them to expunge the Creator's Christ, but by so retaining the ancient régime as not to exclude the Creator's law. Therefore he says: |Because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ, that they might bring us into bondage, to whom we gave place by subjection not even for an hour.| Let us only attend to the clear sense and to the reason of the thing, and the perversion of the Scripture will be apparent. When he first says, |Neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised,| and then adds, |And that because of false brethren unawares brought in,| etc., he gives us an insight into his reason for acting in a clean contrary way, showing us wherefore he did that which he would neither have done nor shown to us, if that had not happened which induced him to act as he did. But then I want you to tell us whether they would have yielded to the subjection that was demanded, if these false brethren had not crept in to spy out their liberty? I apprehend not. They therefore gave way (in a partial concession), because there were persons whose weak faith required consideration. For their rudimentary belief, which was still in suspense about the observance of the law, deserved this concessive treatment, when even the apostle himself had some suspicion that he might have run, and be still running, in vain. Accordingly, the false brethren who were the spies of their Christian liberty must be thwarted in their efforts to bring it under the yoke of their own Judaism before that Paul discovered whether his labour had been in vain, before that those who preceded him in the apostolate gave him their right hands of fellowship, before that he entered on the office of preaching to the Gentiles, according to their arrangement with him. He therefore made some concession, as was necessary, for a time; and this was the reason why he had Timothy circumcised, and the Nazarites introduced into the temple, which incidents are described in the Acts. Their truth may be inferred from their agreement with the apostle's own profession, how |to the Jews he became as a Jew, that he might gain the Jews, and to them that were under the law, as under the law,| -- and so here with respect to those who come in secretly, -- |and lastly, how he became all things to all men, that he might gain all.| Now, inasmuch as the circumstances require such an interpretation as this, no one will refuse to admit that Paul preached that God and that Christ whose law he was excluding all the while, however much he allowed it, owing to the times, but which he would have had summarily to abolish if he had published a new god. Rightly, then, did Peter and James and John give their right hand of fellowship to Paul, and agree on such a division of their work, as that Paul should go to the heathen, and themselves to the circumcision. Their agreement, also, |to remember the poor| was in complete conformity with the law of the Creator, which cherished the poor and needy, as has been shown in our observations on your Gospel. It is thus certain that the question was one which simply regarded the law, while at the same time it is apparent what portion of the law it was convenient to have observed. Paul, however, censures Peter for not walking straightforwardly according to the truth of the gospel. No doubt he blames him; but it was solely because of his inconsistency in the matter of |eating,| which he varied according to the sort of persons (whom he associated with) |fearing them which were of the circumcision,| but not on account of any perverse opinion touching another god. For if such a question had arisen, others also would have been |resisted face to face| by the man who had not even spared Peter on the comparatively small matter of his doubtful conversation. But what do the Marcionites wish to have believed (on the point)? For the rest, the apostle must (be permitted to) go on with his own statement, wherein he says that |a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith:| faith, however, in the same God to whom belongs the law also. For of course he would have bestowed no labour on severing faith from the law, when the difference of the god would, if there had only been any, have of itself produced such a severance. Justly, therefore, did he refuse to |build up again (the structure of the law) which he had overthrown.| The law, indeed, had to be overthrown, from the moment when John |cried in the wilderness, Prepare ye the ways of the Lord,| that valleys and hills and mountains may be filled up and levelled, and the crooked and the rough ways be made straight and smooth -- in other words, that the difficulties of the law might be changed into the facilities of the gospel.

For he remembered that the time was come of which the Psalm spake, |Let us break their bands asunder, and cast off their yoke from us;| since the time when |the nations became tumultuous, and the people imagined vain counsels;| when |the kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ,| in order that thenceforward man might be justified by the liberty of faith, not by servitude to the law, |because the just shall live by his faith.| Now, although the prophet Habakkuk first said this, yet you have the apostle here confirming the prophets, even as Christ did. The object, therefore, of the faith whereby the just man shall live, will be that same God to whom likewise belongs the law, by doing which no man is justified. Since, then, there equally are found the curse in the law and the blessing in faith, you have both conditions set forth by the Creator: |Behold,| says He, |I have set before you a blessing and a curse.| You cannot establish a diversity of authors because there happens to be one of things; for the diversity is itself proposed by one and the same author. Why, however, |Christ was made a curse for us,| is declared by the apostle himself in a way which quite helps our side, as being the result of the Creator's appointment. But yet it by no means follows, because the Creator said of old, |Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,| that Christ belonged to another god, and on that account was accursed even then in the law. And how, indeed, could the Creator have cursed by anticipation one whom He knew not of? Why, however, may it not be more suitable for the Creator to have delivered His own Son to His own curse, than to have submitted Him to the malediction of that god of yours, -- in behalf, too, of man, who is an alien to him? Now, if this appointment of the Creator respecting His Son appears to you to be a cruel one, it is equally so in the case of your own god; if, on the contrary, it be in accordance with reason in your god, it is equally so -- nay, much more so -- in mine. For it would be more credible that that God had provided blessing for man, through the curse of Christ, who formerly set both a blessing and a curse before man, than that he had done so, who, according to you, never at any time pronounced either. |We have received therefore, the promise of the Spirit,| as the apostle says, |through faith,| even that faith by which the just man lives, in accordance with the Creator's purpose. What I say, then, is this, that that God is the object of faith who prefigured the grace of faith. But when he also adds, |For ye are all the children of faith,| it becomes clear that what the heretic's industry erased was the mention of Abraham's name; for by faith the apostle declares us to be |children of Abraham,| and after mentioning him he expressly called us |children of faith| also. But how are we children of faith? and of whose faith, if not Abraham's? For since |Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness;| since, also, he deserved for that reason to be called |the father of many nations,| whilst we, who are even more like him in believing in God, are thereby justified as Abraham was, and thereby also obtain life -- since the just lives by his faith, -- it therefore happens that, as he in the previous passage called us |sons of Abraham,| since he is in faith our (common) father, so here also he named us |children of faith,| for it was owing to his faith that it was promised that Abraham should be the father of (many) nations. As to the fact itself of his calling off faith from circumcision, did he not seek thereby to constitute us the children of Abraham, who had believed previous to his circumcision in the flesh? In short, faith in one of two gods cannot possibly admit us to the dispensation of the other, so that it should impute righteousness to those who believe in him, and make the just live through him, and declare the Gentiles to be his children through faith. Such a dispensation as this belongs wholly to Him through whose appointment it was already made known by the call of this self-same Abraham, as is conclusively shown by the natural meaning.

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