The Five Books
WHATEVER in times past we have wrought in opposition to Marcion, is from the present moment no longer to be accounted of. It is a new work which we are undertaking in lieu of the old one. My original tract, as too hurriedly composed, I had subsequently superseded by a fuller treatise. This latter I lost, before it was completely published, by the fraud of a person who was then a brother, but became afterwards an apostate. He, as it happened, had transcribed a portion of it, full of mistakes, and then published it. The necessity thus arose for an amended work; and the occasion of the new edition induced me to make a considerable addition to the treatise. This present text, therefore, of my work — which is the third as superseding the second, but henceforward to be considered the first instead of the third — renders a preface necessary to this issue of the tract itself that no reader may be perplexed, if he should by chance fall in with the various forms of it which are scattered about.
The Euxine Sea, as it is called, is self-contradictory in its nature, and deceptive in its name. As you would not account it hospitable from its situation, so is it severed from our more civilized waters by a certain stigma which attaches to its barbarous character. The fiercest nations inhabit it, if indeed it can be called habitation, when life is passed in wagons. They have no fixed abode; their life has no germ of civilization; they indulge their libidinous desires without restraint, and for the most part naked. Moreover, when they gratify secret lust, they hang up their quivers on their car-yokes, to warn off the curious and rash observer. Thus without a blush do they prostitute their weapons of war. The dead bodies of their parents they cut up with their sheep, and devour at their feasts. They who have not died so as to become food for others, are thought to have died an accursed death. Their women are not by their sex softened to modesty. They uncover the breast, from which they suspend their battle-axes, and prefer warfare to marriage. In their climate, too, there is the same rude nature. The daytime is never clear, the sun never cheerful; the sky is uniformly cloudy; the whole year is wintry; the only wind that blows is the angry North. Waters melt only by fires; their rivers flow not by reason of the ice; their mountains are covered with heaps of snow. All things are torpid, all stiff with cold. Nothing there has the glow of life, but that ferocity which has given to scenic plays their stories of the sacrifices of the Taurians, and the loves of the Colchians, and the torments of the Caucasus.
Nothing, however, in Pontus is so barbarous and sad as the fact that Marcion was born there, fouler than any Scythian, more roving than the wagon-life of the Sarmatian, more inhuman than the Massagete, more audacious than an Amazon, darker than the cloud, (of Pontus) colder than its winter, more brittle than its ice, more deceitful than the Ister, more craggy than Caucasus. Nay more, the true Prometheus, Almighty God, is mangled by Marcion’s blasphemies. Marcion is more savage than even the beasts of that barbarous region. For what beaver was ever a greater emasculator than he who has abolished the nuptial bond? What Pontic mouse ever had such gnawing powers as he who has gnawed the Gospels to pieces? Verily, O Euxine, thou hast produced a monster more credible to philosophers than to Christians.
For the cynic Diogenes used to go about, lantern in hand, at midday to find a man; whereas Marcion has quenched the light of his faith, and so lost the God whom he had found. His disciples will not deny that his first faith he held along with ourselves; a letter of his own proves this; so that for the future a heretic may from his case be designated as one who, forsaking that which was prior, afterwards chose out for himself that which was not in times past. For in as far as what was delivered in times past and from the beginning will be held as truth, in so far will that be accounted heresy which is brought in later. But another brief treatise will maintain this position against heretics, who ought to be refuted even without a consideration of their doctrines, on the ground that they are heretical by reason of the novelty of their opinions. Now, so far as any controversy is to be admitted, I will for the time (lest our compendious principle of novelty, being called in on all occasions to our aid, should be imputed to want of confidence) begin with setting forth our adversary’s rule of belief, that it may escape no one what our main contention is to be.
The heretic of Pontus introduces two Gods, like the twin Symplegades of his own shipwreck: One whom it was impossible to deny, i.e. our Creator; and one whom he will never be able to prove, i.e. his own god. The unhappy man gained the first idea of his conceit from the simple passage of our Lord’s saying, which has reference to human beings and not divine ones, wherein He disposes of those examples of a good tree and a corrupt one; how that “the good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit, neither the corrupt tree good fruit.” Which means, that an honest mind and good faith cannot produce evil deeds, any more than an evil disposition can produce good deeds. Now (like many other persons now-a-days, especially those who have an heretical proclivity), while morbidly brooding over the question of the origin of evil, his perception became blunted by the very irregularity of his researches; and when he found the Creator declaring, “I am He that createth evil,” inasmuch as he had already concluded from other arguments, which are satisfactory to every perverted mind, that God is the author of evil, so he now applied to the Creator the figure of the corrupt tree bringing forth evil fruit, that is, moral evil, and then presumed that there ought to be another god, after the analogy of the good tree producing its good fruit. Accordingly, finding in Christ a different disposition, as it were — one of a simple and pure benevolence — differing from the Creator, he readily argued that in his Christ had been revealed a new and strange divinity; and then with a little leaven he leavened the whole lump of the faith, flavoring it with the acidity of his own heresy.
He had, moreover, in one Cerdon an abettor of this blasphemy, — a circumstance which made them the more readily think that they saw most clearly their two gods, blind though they were; for, in truth, they had not seen the one God with soundness of faith. To men of diseased vision even one lamp looks like many. One of his gods, therefore, whom he was obliged to acknowledge, he destroyed by defaming his attributes in the matter of evil; the other, whom he labored so hard to devise, he constructed, laying his foundation in the principle of good. In what articles he arranged these natures, we show by our own refutations of them.
The principal, and indeed the whole, contention lies in the point of number: whether two Gods may be admitted, by poetic license (if they must be), or pictorial fancy, or by the third process, as we must now add, of heretical pravity. But the Christian verity has distinctly declared this principle, “God is not, if He is not one;” because we more properly believe that has no existence which is not as it ought to be. In order, however, that you may know that God is one, ask what God is, and you will find Him to be not otherwise than one. So far as a human being can form a definition of God, I adduce one which the conscience of all men will also acknowledge, — that God is the great Supreme existing in eternity, unbegotten, unmade without beginning, without end. For such a condition as this must needs be ascribed to that eternity which makes God to be the great Supreme, because for such a purpose as this is this very attribute in God; and so on as to the other qualities: so that God is the great Supreme in form and in reason, and in might and in power.
Now, since all are agreed on this point (because nobody will deny that God is in some sense the great Supreme, except the man who shall be able to pronounce the opposite opinion, that God is but some inferior being, in order that he may deny God by robbing Him of an attribute of God), what must be the condition of the great Supreme Himself? Surely it must be that nothing is equal to Him, i.e. that there is no other great supreme; because, if there were, He would have an equal; and if He had an equal, He would be no longer the great Supreme, now that the condition and (so to say) our law, which permits nothing to be equal to the great Supreme, is subverted. That Being, then, which is the great Supreme, must needs be unique, by having no equal, and so not ceasing to be the great Supreme. Therefore He will not otherwise exist than by the condition whereby He has His being; that is, by His absolute uniqueness.
Since, then, God is the great Supreme, our Christian verity has rightly declared, “God is not, if He is not one.” Not as if we doubted His being God, by saying, He is not, if He is not one; but because we define Him, in whose being we thoroughly believe, to be that without which He is not God; that is to say, the great Supreme. But then the great Supreme must needs be unique. This Unique Being, therefore, will be God — not otherwise God than as the great Supreme; and not otherwise the great Supreme than as having no equal; and not otherwise having no equal than as being Unique. Whatever other god, then, you may introduce, you will at least be unable to maintain his divinity under any other guise, than by ascribing to him too the property of Godhead — both eternity and supremacy over all. How, therefore, can two great Supremes co-exist, when this is the attribute of the Supreme Being, to have no equal, — an attribute which belongs to One alone, and can by no means exist in two?
But some one may contend that two great Supremes may exist, distinct and separate in their own departments; and may even adduce, as an example, the kingdoms of the world, which, though they are so many in number, are yet supreme in their several regions. Such a man will suppose that human circumstances are always comparable with divine ones. Now, if this mode of reasoning be at all tolerable, what is to prevent our introducing, I will not say a third god or a fourth, but as many as there are kings of the earth? Now it is God that is in question, whose main property it is to admit of no comparison with Himself. Nature itself, therefore, if not an Isaiah, or rather God speaking by Isaiah, will deprecatingly ask, “To whom will ye liken me?” [Isaiah 40:25.] Human circumstances may perhaps be compared with divine ones, but they may not be with God. God is one thing, and what belongs to God is another thing.
Once more: you who apply the example of a king, as a great supreme, take care that you can use it properly. For although a king is supreme on his throne next to God, he is still inferior to God; and when he is compared with God, he will be dislodged from that great supremacy which is transferred to God. Now, this being the case, how will you employ in a comparison with God an object as your example, which fails in all the purposes which belong to a comparison? Why, when supreme power among kings cannot evidently be multifarious, but only unique and singular, is an exception made in the case of Him (of all others) who is King of kings, and (from the exceeding greatness of His power, and the subjection of all other ranks to Him) the very summit, as it were, of dominion? But even in the case of rulers of that other form of government, where they one by one preside in a union of authority, if with their petty prerogatives of royalty, so to say, they be brought on all points into such a comparison with one another as shall make it clear which of them is superior in the essential features and powers of royalty, it must needs follow that the supreme majesty will redound to one alone, — all the others being gradually, by the issue of the comparison, removed and excluded from the supreme authority. Thus, although, when spread out in several hands, supreme authority seems to be multifarious, yet in its own powers, nature, and condition, it is unique. It follows, then, that if two gods are compared, as two kings and two supreme authorities, the concentration of authority must necessarily, according to the meaning of the comparison, be conceded to one of the two; because it is clear from his own superiority that he is the supreme, his rival being now vanquished, and proved to be not the greater, however great. Now, from this failure of his rival, the other is unique in power, possessing a certain solitude, as it were, in his singular pre-eminence. The inevitable conclusion at which we arrive, then, on this point is this: either we must deny that God is the great Supreme, which no wise man will allow himself to do; or say that God has no one else with whom to share His power.
But on what principle did Marcion confine his supreme powers to two? I would first ask, If there be two, why not more? Because if number be compatible with the substance of Deity, the richer you make it in number the better. Valentinus was more consistent and more liberal; for he, having once imagined two deities, Bythos and Sige, poured forth a swarm of divine essences, a brood of no less than thirty Aeons, like the sow of Aeneas. Now, whatever principle refuses to admit several supreme begins, the same must reject even two, for there is plurality in the very lowest number after one. After unity, number commences. So, again, the same principle which could admit two could admit more. After two, multitude begins, now that one is exceeded.
In short, we feel that reason herself expressly forbids the belief in more gods than one, because the selfsame rule lays down one God and not two, which declares that God must be a Being to which, as the great Supreme, nothing is equal; and that Being to which nothing is equal must, moreover, be unique. But further, what can be the use or advantage in supposing two supreme beings, two coordinate powers? What numerical difference could there be when two equals differ not from one? For that thing which is the same in two is one. Even if there were several equals, all would be just as much one, because, as equals, they would not differ one from another. So, if of two beings neither differs from the other, since both of them are on the supposition supreme, both being gods, neither of them is more excellent than the other; and so, having no pre-eminence, their numerical distinction has no reason in it.
Number, moreover, in the Deity ought to be consistent with the highest reason, or else His worship would be brought into doubt. For consider now, if, when I saw two Gods before me (who, being both Supreme Beings, were equal to each other), I were to worship them both, what should I be doing? I should be much afraid that the abundance of my homage would be deemed superstition rather than piety. Because, as both of them are so equal and are both included in either of the two, I might serve them both acceptably in only one; and by this very means I should attest their equality and unity, provided that I worshipped them mutually the one in the other, because in the one both are present to me. If I were to worship one of the two, I should be equally conscious of seeming to pour contempt on the uselessness of a numerical distinction, which was superfluous, because it indicated no difference; in other words, I should think it the safer course to worship neither of these two Gods than one of them with some scruple of conscience, or both of them to none effect.
Thus far our discussion seems to imply that Marcion makes his two gods equal. For while we have been maintaining that God ought to be believed as the one only great Supreme Being, excluding from Him every possibility of equality, we have treated of these topics on the assumption of two equal Gods; but nevertheless, by teaching that no equals can exist according to the law of the Supreme Being, we have sufficiently affirmed the impossibility that two equals should exist. For the rest, however, we know full well that Marcion makes his gods unequal: one judicial, harsh, mighty in war; the other mild, placid, and simply good and excellent. Let us with similar care consider also this aspect of the question, whether diversity (in the Godhead) can at any rate contain two, since equality therein failed to do so.
Here again the same rule about the great Supreme will protect us, inasmuch as it settles the entire condition of the Godhead. Now, challenging, and in a certain sense arresting the meaning of our adversary, who does not deny that the Creator is God, I most fairly object against him that he has no room for any diversity in his gods, because, having once confessed that they are on a par, he cannot now pronounce them different; not indeed that human beings may not be very different under the same designation, be because the Divine Being can be neither said nor believed to be God, except as the great Supreme.
Since, therefore, he is obliged to acknowledge that the God whom he does not deny is the great Supreme, it is inadmissible that he should predicate of the Supreme Being such a diminution as should subject Him to another Supreme Being. For He ceases (to be Supreme), if He becomes subject to any. Besides, it is not the characteristic of God to cease from any attribute of His divinity — say, from His supremacy. For at this rate the supremacy would be endangered even in Marcion’s more powerful God, if it were capable of depreciation in the Creator. When, therefore, two gods are pronounced to be two great Supremes, it must needs follow that neither of them is greater or less than the other, neither of them loftier or lowlier than the other. If you deny him to be God whom you call inferior, you deny the supremacy of this inferior being. But when you confessed both gods to be divine, you confessed then both to be supreme. Nothing will you be able to take away from either of them; nothing will you be able to add. By allowing their divinity, you have denied their diversity.
But this argument you will try to shake with an objection from the name of God, by alleging that name is a vague one, and applied to other beings also; as it is written, “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; He judgeth among the gods.” [Psalm 82:1.] And again, “I have said, Ye are gods.” As therefore the attribute of supremacy would be inappropriate to these, although they are called gods, so is it to the Creator. This is a foolish objection; and my answer to it is, that its author fails to consider that quite as strong an objection might be urged against the (superior) God of Marcion: he too is called God, but is not on that account proved to be divine, as neither are angels nor men, the Creator’s handiwork. If an identity of names affords a presumption in support of equality of condition, how often do worthless menials strut insolently in the names of kings — your Alexanders, Caesars, and Pompeys! This fact, however, does not detract from the real attributes of the royal persons, Nay more, the very idols of the Gentiles are called gods. Yet not one of them is divine because he is called a god.
It is not, therefore, for the name of god, for its sound or its written form, that I am claiming the supremacy in the Creator, but for the essence to which the name belongs; and when I find that essence alone is unbegotten and unmade — alone eternal, and the maker of all things — it is not to its name, but its state, not to its designation, but its condition, that I ascribe and appropriate the attribute of the supremacy. And so, because the essence to which I ascribe it has come to be called God, you suppose that I ascribe it to the name, because I must needs use a name to express the essence, of which indeed that Being consists who is called God, and who is accounted the great Supreme because of His essence, not from His name. In short, Marcion himself, when he imputes this character to his God, imputes it to the nature, not to the word. That supremacy, then, which we ascribe to God in consideration of His essence, and not because of His name, ought, as we maintain, to be equal in both the beings who consist of that substance for which the name of God is given; because, in as far as they are called gods (i.e. supreme beings, on the strength, of course, of their unbegotten and eternal, and therefore great and supreme essence), in so far the attribute of being the great Supreme cannot be regarded as less or worse in one than in another great Supreme.
If the happiness, and sublimity, and perfection of the Supreme Being shall hold good of Marcion’s god, it will equally so of ours; and if not of ours, it will equally not hold of Marcion’s. Therefore two supreme beings will be neither equal nor unequal: not equal, because the principle which we have just expounded, that the Supreme Being admits of no comparison with Himself, forbids it; not unequal, because another principle meets us respecting the Supreme Being, that He is capable of no diminution. So, Marcion, you are caught in the midst of your own Pontic tide. The waves of truth overwhelm you on every side. You can neither set up equal gods nor unequal ones. For there are not two; so far as the question of number is properly concerned. Although the whole matter of the two gods is at issue, we have yet confined our discussion to certain bounds, within which we shall now have to contend about separate peculiarities.
In the first place, how arrogantly do the Marcionites build up their stupid system, bringing forward a new god, as if we were ashamed of the old one! So schoolboys are proud of their new shoes, but their old master beats their strutting vanity out of them. Now when I hear of a new god, who, in the old world and in the old time and under the old god was unknown and unheard of; whom, (accounted as no one through such long centuries back, and ancient in men’s very ignorance of him), a certain “Jesus Christ,” and none else revealed; whom Christ revealed, they say — Christ himself new, according to them, even, in ancient names — I feel grateful for this conceit of theirs. For by its help I shall at once be able to prove the heresy of their tenet of a new deity. It will turn out to be such a novelty as has made gods even for the heathen by some new and yet again and ever new title for each several deification. What new god is there, except a false one? Not even Saturn will be proved to be a god by all his ancient fame, because it was a novel pretense which some time or other produced even him, when it first gave him godship.
On the contrary, living and perfect Deity has its origin neither in novelty nor in antiquity, but in its own true nature. Eternity has no time. It is itself all time. It acts; it cannot then suffer. It cannot be born, therefore it lacks age. God, if old, forfeits the eternity that is to come; if new, the eternity which is past. The newness bears witness to a beginning; the oldness threatens an end. God, moreover, is as independent of beginning and end as He is of time, which is only the arbiter and measurer of a beginning and an end.
Now I know full well by what perceptive faculty they boast of their new god; even their knowledge. It is, however, this very discovery of a novel thing — so striking to common minds — as well as the natural gratification which is inherent in novelty, that I wanted to refute, and thence further to challenge a proof of this unknown god. For him whom by their knowledge they present to us as new, they prove to have been unknown previous to that knowledge. Let us keep, within the strict limits and measure of our argument. Convince me there could have been an unknown god. I find, no doubt, that altars have been lavished on unknown gods; that, however, is the idolatry of Athens. And on uncertain gods; but that, too, is only Roman superstition. Furthermore, uncertain gods are not well known, because no certainty about them exists; and because of this uncertainty they are therefore unknown.
Now, which of these two titles shall we carve for Marcion’s god? Both, I suppose, as for a being who is still uncertain, and was formerly unknown. For inasmuch as the Creator, being a known God, caused him to be unknown; so, as being a certain God, he made him to be uncertain. But I will not go so far out of my way, as to say: If God was unknown and concealed, He was overshadowed in such a region of darkness, as must have been itself new and unknown, and be even now likewise uncertain — some immense region indeed, one undoubtedly greater than the God whom it concealed. But I will briefly state my subject, and afterwards most fully pursue it, promising that God neither could have been, nor ought to have been, unknown. Could not have been, because of His greatness; ought not to have been, because of His goodness, especially as He is (supposed, by Marcion) more excellent in both these attributes than our Creator.
Since, however, I observe that in some points the proof of every new and heretofore unknown god ought, for its test, to be compared to the form of the Creator, it will be my duty first of all to show that this very course is adopted by me in a settled plan, such as I might with greater confidence use in support of my argument. Before every other consideration, (let me ask) how it happens that you, who acknowledge the Creator to be God, and from your knowledge confess Him to be prior in existence, do not know that the other god should be examined by you in exactly the same course of investigation which has taught you how to find out a God in the first case? Every prior thing has furnished the rule for the latter. In the present question two gods are propounded, the unknown and the known. Concerning the known there is no question. It is plain that He exists, else He would not be known. The dispute is concerning the unknown god. Possibly he has no existence; because, if he had, he would have been known. Now that which, so long as it is unknown, is an object to be questioned, is an uncertainty so long as it remains thus questionable; and all the while it is in this state of uncertainty, it possibly has no existence at all. You have a God who is so far certain, as he is known; and uncertain, as unknown.
This being the case, does it appear to you to be justly defensible, that uncertainties should be submitted for proof to the rule, and form, and standard of certainties? Now, if to the subject before us, which is in itself full of uncertainty thus far, there be applied also arguments derived from uncertainties, we shall be involved in such a series of questions arising out of our treatment of these same uncertain arguments, as shall by reason of their uncertainty be dangerous to the faith, and we shall drift into those insoluble questions which the apostle has no affection for. If, again, in things wherein there is found a diversity of condition, they shall prejudge, as no doubt they will, uncertain, doubtful, and intricate points, by the certain, undoubted, and clear sides of their rule, it will probably happen that (those points) will not be submitted to the standard of certainties for determination, as being freed by the diversity of their essential condition from the application of such a standard in all other respects. As, therefore, it is two gods which are the subject of our proposition, their essential condition must be the same in both. For, as concerns their divinity, they are both unbegotten, unmade, eternal. This will be their essential condition.
All other points Marcion himself seems to have made light of, for he has placed them in a different category. They are subsequent in the order of treatment; indeed, they will not have to be brought into the discussion, since on the essential condition there is no dispute. Now there is this absence of our dispute, because they are both of them gods. Those things, therefore, whose community of condition is evident, will, when brought to a test on the ground of that common condition, have to be submitted, although they are uncertain, to the standard of those certainties with which they are classed in the community of their essential condition, so as on this account to share also in their manner of proof. I shall therefore contend with the greatest confidence that he is not God who is today uncertain, because he has been hitherto unknown; for of whomsoever it is evident that he is God, from this very fact it is (equally) evident, that he never has been unknown, and therefore never uncertain.
For indeed, as the Creator of all things, He was from the beginning discovered equally with them, they having been themselves manifested that He might become known as God. For although Moses, some long while afterwards, seems to have been the first to introduce the knowledge of the God of the universe in the temple of his writings, yet the birthday of that knowledge must not on that account be reckoned from the Pentateuch. For the volume of Moses does not at all initiate the knowledge of the Creator, but from the first gives out that it is to be traced from Paradise and Adam, not from Egypt and Moses. The greater part, therefore, of the human race, although they knew not even the name of Moses, much less his writings, yet knew the God of Moses; and even when idolatry overshadowed the world with its extreme prevalence, men still spoke of Him separately by His own name as God, and the God of gods, and said, “If God grant,” and, “As God pleases,” and, “I commend you to God.”
Reflect, then, whether they knew Him, of whom they testify that He can do all things. To none of the writings of Moses do they owe this. The soul was before prophecy. From the beginning the knowledge of God is the dowry of the soul, one and the same amongst the Egyptians, and the Syrians, and the tribes of Pontus. For their souls call the God of the Jews their God. Do not, O barbarian heretic, put Abraham before the world. Even if the Creator had been the God of one family, He was yet not later than your god; even in Pontus was He known before him. Take then your standard from Him who came first: from the Certain (must be judged) the uncertain; from the Known the unknown. Never shall God be hidden, never shall God be wanting. Always shall He be understood, always be heard, nay even seen, in whatsoever way He shall wish. God has for His witnesses this whole being of ours, and this universe wherein we dwell. He is thus, because not unknown, proved to be both God and the only One, although another still tries hard to make out his claim.
And justly so, they say. For who is there that is less well known by his own (inherent) qualities than by strange ones? No one. Well, I keep to this statement. How could anything be strange to God, to whom, if He were personally existent, nothing would be strange? For this is the attribute of God, that all things are His, and all things belong to Him; or else this question would not so readily be heard from us: What has He to do with things strange to Him? — a point which will be more fully noticed in its proper place. It is now sufficient to observe, that no one is proved to exist to whom nothing is proved to belong. For as the Creator is shown to be God, God without any doubt, from the fact that all things are His, and nothing is strange to Him; so the rival god is seen to be no god, from the circumstance that nothing is his, and all things are therefore strange to him. Since, then, the universe belongs to the Creator, I see no room for any other god. All things are full of their Author, and occupied by Him. If in created beings there be any portion of space anywhere void of Deity, the void will be of a false deity clearly. By falsehood the truth is made clear. Why cannot the vast crowd of false gods somewhere find room for Marcion’s god?
This, therefore, I insist upon, from the character of the Creator, that God must have been known from the works of some world peculiarly His own, both in its human constituents, and the rest of its organic life; when even the error of the world has presumed to call gods those men whom it sometimes acknowledges, on the ground that in every such case something is seen which provides for the uses and advantages of life. Accordingly, this also was believed from the character of God to be a divine function; namely, to teach or point out what is convenient and needful in human concerns. So completely has the authority which has given influence to a false divinity been borrowed from that source, whence it had previously flowed forth to the true one. One stray vegetable at least Marcion’s god ought to have produced as his own; so might he be preached up as a new Triptolemus. Or else state some reason which shall be worthy of a God, why he, supposing him to exist, created nothing; because he must, on supposition of his existence, have been a creator, on that very principle on which it is clear to us that our God is no otherwise existent, than as having been the Creator of this universe of ours.
For, once for all, the rule will hold good, that they cannot both acknowledge the Creator to be God, and also prove him divine whom they wish to be equally believed in as God, except they adjust him to the standard of Him whom they and all men hold to be God; which is this, that whereas no one doubts the Creator to be God on the express ground of His having made the universe, so, on the selfsame ground, no one ought to believe that he also is God who has made nothing — except, indeed, some good reason be forthcoming. And this must needs be limited to one of two: he was either unwilling to create, or else unable. There is no third reason. Now, that he was unable, is a reason unworthy of God. Whether to have been unwilling to be a worthy one, I want to inquire. Tell me, Marcion, did your god wish himself to be recognized at any time or not? With what other purpose did he come down from heaven, and preach, and having suffered rise again from the dead, if it were not that he might be acknowledged? And, doubtless, since he was acknowledged, he willed it. For no circumstance could have happened to him, if he had been unwilling. What indeed tended so greatly to the knowledge of himself, as his appearing in the humiliation of the flesh, — a degradation all the lower indeed if the flesh were only illusory? For it was all the more shameful if he, who brought on himself the Creator’s curse by hanging on a tree, only pretended the assumption of a bodily substance.
A far nobler foundation might he have laid for the knowledge of himself in some evidences of a creation of his own, especially when he had to become known in opposition to Him in whose territory he had remained unknown by any works from the beginning. For how happens it that the Creator, although unaware, as the Marcionites aver, of any god being above Himself, and who used to declare even with an oath that He existed alone, should have guarded by such mighty works the knowledge of Himself, about which, on the assumption of His being alone without a rival, He might have spared Himself all care; while the Superior God, knowing all the while how well furnished in power His inferior rival was, should have made no provision at all towards getting Himself acknowledged? Whereas He ought to have produced works more illustrious and exalted still, in order that He might, after the Creator’s standard, both be acknowledged as God from His works, and even by nobler deeds show Himself to be more potent and more gracious than the Creator.
But even if we were able to allow that he exists, we should yet be bound to argue that he is without a cause. For he who had nothing (to show for himself as proof of his existence),would be without a cause, since (such) proof is the whole cause that there exists some person to whom the proof belongs. Now, in as far as nothing ought to be without a cause, that is, without a proof (because if it be without a cause, it is all one as if it be not, not having the very proof which is the cause of a thing), in so far shall I more worthily believe that God does not exist, than that He exists without a cause. For he is without a cause who has not a cause by reason of not having a proof. God, however, ought not to be without a cause, that is to say, without a proof. Thus, as often as I show that He exists without a cause, although (I allow that) He exists, I do really determine this, that He does not exist; because, if He had existed, He could not have existed altogether without a cause. So, too, even in regard to faith itself, I say that he seeks to obtain it with out cause from man, who is otherwise accustomed to believe in God from the idea he gets of Him from the testimony of His works: (without cause, I repeat,) because he has provided no such proof as that whereby man has acquired the knowledge of God. For although most persons believe in Him, they do not believe at once by unaided reason, without having some token of Deity in works worthy of God. And so upon this ground of inactivity and lack of works he is guilty both of impudence and malignity: of impudence, in aspiring after a belief which is not due to him, and for which he has provided no foundation; of malignity, in having brought many persons under the charge of unbelief by furnishing to them no groundwork for their faith.
While we are expelling from this rank (of Deity) a god who has no evidence to show for himself which is so proper and God-worthy as the testimony of the Creator, Marcion’s most shameless followers with haughty impertinence fall upon the Creator’s works to destroy them. To be sure, say they, the world is a grand work, worthy of a God. Then is the Creator not at all a God? By all means He is God. Therefore the world is not unworthy of God, for God has made nothing unworthy of Himself; although it was for man, and not for Himself, that He made the world, (and) although every work is less than its maker. And yet, if to have been the author of our creation, such as it is, be unworthy of God, how much more unworthy of Him is it to have created absolutely nothing at all! — not even a production which, although unworthy, might yet have encouraged the hope of some better attempt.
To say somewhat, then, concerning the alleged unworthiness of this world’s fabric, to which among the Greeks also is assigned a name of ornament and grace, not of sordidness, those very professors of wisdom, from whose genius every heresy derives its spirit, called the said unworthy elements divine; as Thales did water, Heraclitus fire, Anaximenes air, Anaximander all the heavenly bodies, Strato the sky and earth, Zeno the air and aether, and Plato the stars, which he calls a fiery kind of gods; whilst concerning the world, when they considered indeed its magnitude, and strength, and power, and honor, and glory, — the abundance, too, the regularity, and law of those individual elements which contribute to the production, the nourishment, the ripening, and the reproduction of all things, — the majority of the philosophers hesitated to assign a beginning and an end to the said world, lest its constituent elements, great as they undoubtedly are, should fail to be regarded as divine, which are objects of worship with the Persian magi, the Egyptian hierophants, and the Indian gymnosophists. The very superstition of the crowd, inspired by the common idolatry, when ashamed of the names and fables of their ancient dead borne by their idols, has recourse to the interpretation of natural objects, and so with much ingenuity cloaks its own disgrace, figuratively reducing Jupiter to a heated substance, and Juno to an aerial one (according to the literal sense of the Greek words); Vesta, in like manner, to fire, and the Muses to waters, and the Great Mother to the earth, mowed as to its crops, plowed up with lusty arms, and watered with baths. Thus Osiris also, whenever he is buried, and looked for to come to life again, and with joy recovered, is an emblem of the regularity wherewith the fruits of the ground return, and the elements recover life, and the year comes round; as also the lions of Mithras are philosophical sacraments of arid and scorched nature.
It is, indeed, enough for me that natural elements, foremost in site and state, should have been more readily regarded as divine than as unworthy of God. I will, however, come down to humbler objects. A single floweret from the hedgerow, I say not from the meadows; a single little shellfish from any sea, I say not from the Red Sea; a single stray wing of a moorfowl, I say nothing of the peacock, — will, I presume, prove to you that the Creator was but a sorry artificer!
Now, when you make merry with those minuter animals, which their glorious Maker has purposely endued with a profusion of instincts and resources, — thereby teaching us that greatness has its proofs in lowliness, just as (according to the apostle) there is power even in infirmity — imitate, if you can, the cells of the bee, the hills of the ant, the webs of the spider, and the threads of the silkworm; endure, too, if you know how, those very creatures which infest your couch and house, the poisonous ejections of the blister-beetle, the spikes of the fly, and the gnat’s sheath and sting. What of the greater animals, when the small ones so affect you with pleasure or pain, that you cannot even in their case despise their Creator? Finally, take a circuit round your own self; survey man within and without. Even this handiwork of our God will be pleasing to you, inasmuch as your own Lord, that better God, loved it so well, and for your sake was at the pains of descending from the third heaven to these poverty-stricken elements, and for the same reason was actually crucified in this sorry apartment of the Creator.
Indeed, up to the present time, he has not disdained the water which the Creator made wherewith he washes his people; nor the oil with which he anoints them; nor that union of honey and milk wherewithal he gives them the nourishment of children; nor the bread by which he represents his own proper body, thus requiring in his very sacraments the “beggarly elements” of the Creator. You, however, are a disciple above his master, and a servant above his Lord; you have a higher reach of discernment than his; you destroy what he requires. I wish to examine whether you are at least honest in this, so as to have no longing for those things which you destroy. You are an enemy to the sky, and yet you are glad to catch its freshness in your houses. You disparage the earth, although the elemental parent of your own flesh, as if it were your undoubted enemy, and yet you extract from it all its fatness for your food. The sea, too, you reprobate, but are continually using its produce, which you account the more sacred diet. If I should offer you a rose, you will not disdain its Maker. You hypocrite, however much of abstinence you use to show yourself a Marcionite, that is, a repudiator of your Maker (for if the world displeased you, such abstinence ought to have been affected by you as a martyrdom), you will have to associate yourself with the Creator’s material production, into what element soever you shall be dissolved. How hard is this obstinacy of yours! You vilify the things in which you both live and die.
After all, or, if you like, before all, since you have said that he has a creation of his own, and his own world, and his own sky; we shall see, indeed, about that third heaven, when we come to discuss even your own apostle. Meanwhile, whatever is the (created) substance, it ought at any rate to have made its appearance in company with its own god. But now, how happens it that the Lord has been revealed since the twelfth year of Tiberius Caesar, while no creation of His at all has been discovered up to the fifteenth of the Emperor Severus; although, as being more excellent than the paltry works of the Creator, it should certainly have ceased to conceal itself, when its Lord and author no longer lies hid? I ask, therefore, if it was unable to manifest itself in this world, how did its Lord appear in this world? If this world received its Lord, why was it not able to receive the created substance, unless perchance it was greater than its Lord? But now there arises a question about place, having reference both to the world above and to the God thereof. For, behold, if he has his own world beneath him, above the Creator, he has certainly fixed it in a position, the space of which was empty between his own feet and the Creator’s head. Therefore God both Himself occupied local space, and caused the world to occupy local space; and this local space, too, will be greater than God and the world together. For in no case is that which contains not greater than that which is contained. And indeed we must look well to it that no small patches be left here and there vacant, in which some third god also may be able with a world of his own to foist himself in.
Now, begin to reckon up your gods. There will be local space for a god, not only as being greater than God, but as being also unbegotten and unmade, and therefore eternal, and equal to God, in which God has ever been. Then, inasmuch as He too has fabricated a world out of some underlying material which is unbegotten, and unmade, and contemporaneous with God, just as Marcion holds of the Creator, you reduce this likewise to the dignity of that local space which has enclosed two gods, both God and matter. For matter also is a god according to the rule of Deity, being (to be sure) unbegotten, and unmade, and eternal. If, however, it was out of nothing that he made his world, this also (our heretic) will be obliged to predicate of the Creator, to whom he subordinates matter in the substance of the world. But it will be only right that he too should have made his world out of matter, because the same process occurred to him as God which lay before the Creator as equally God. And thus you may, if you please, reckon up so far, three gods as Marcion’s, — the Maker, local space, and matter.
Furthermore, he in like manner makes the Creator a god in local space, which is itself to be appraised on a precisely identical scale of dignity; and to Him as its Lord he subordinates matter, which is notwithstanding unbegotten, and unmade, and by reason hereof eternal. With this matter he further associates evil, an unbegotten principle with an unbegotten object, an unmade with an unmade, and an eternal with an eternal; so here he makes a fourth God. Accordingly you have three substances of Deity in the higher instances, and in the lower ones four. When to these are added their Christs — the one which appeared in the time of Tiberius, the other which is promised by the Creator — Marcion suffers a manifest wrong from those persons who assume that he holds two gods, whereas he implies no less than nine though he knows it not.
Since, then, that other world does not appear, nor its god either, the only resource left to them is to divide things into the two classes of visible and invisible, with two gods for their authors, and so to claim the invisible for their own, (the supreme) God. But who, except an heretical spirit, could ever bring his mind to believe that the invisible part of creation belongs to him who had previously displayed no visible thing, rather than to Him who, by His operation on the visible world, produced a belief in the invisible also, since it is far more reasonable to give one’s assent after some samples (of a work) than after none? We shall see to what author even (your favorite) apostle attributes the invisible creation, when we come to examine him. At present (we withhold his testimony), for we are for the most part engaged in preparing the way, by means of common sense and fair arguments, for a belief in the future support of the Scriptures also.
We affirm, then, that this diversity of things visible and invisible must on this ground be attributed to the Creator, even because the whole of His work consists of diversities — of things corporeal and incorporeal; of animate and inanimate; of vocal and mute; of moveable and stationary; of productive and sterile; of arid and moist; of hot and cold. Man, too, is himself similarly tempered with diversity, both in his body and in his sensation. Some of his members are strong, others weak; some comely, others uncomely; some twofold, others unique; some like, others unlike. In like manner there is diversity also in his sensation: now joy, then anxiety; now love, then hatred; now anger, then calmness. Since this is the case, inasmuch as the whole of this creation of ours has been fashioned with a reciprocal rivalry amongst its several parts, the invisible ones are due to the visible, and not to be ascribed to any other author than Him to whom their counterparts are imputed, marking as they do diversity in the Creator Himself, who orders what He forbade, and forbids what He ordered; who also strikes and heals. Why do they take Him to be uniform in one class of things alone, as the Creator of visible things, and only them; whereas He ought to be believed to have created both the visible and the invisible, in just the same way as life and death, or as evil things and peace? And verily, if the invisible creatures are greater than the visible, which are in their own sphere great, so also is it fitting that the greater should be His to whom the great belong; because neither the great, nor indeed the greater, can be suitable property for one who seems to possess not even the smallest things.
Pressed by these arguments, they exclaim: One work is sufficient for our god; he has delivered man by his supreme and most excellent goodness, which is preferable to (the creation of) all the locusts. What superior god is this, of whom it has not been possible to find any work so great as the man of the lesser god! Now without doubt the first thing you have to do is to prove that he exists, after the same manner that the existence of God must ordinarily be proved — by his works; and only after that by his good deeds. For the first question is, Whether he exists? and then, What is his character? The former is to be tested by his works, the other by the beneficence of them. It does not simply follow that he exists, because he is said to have wrought deliverance for man; but only after it shall have been settled that he exists, will there be room for saying that he has effected this liberation. And even this point also must have its own evidence, because it may be quite possible both that he has existence, and yet has not wrought the alleged deliverance.
Now in that section of our work which concerned the question of the unknown god, two points were made clear enough — both that he had created nothing: and that he ought to have been a creator, in order to be known by his works; because, if he had existed, he ought to have been known, and that too from the beginning of things; for it was not fit that God should have lain hid. It will be necessary that I should revert to the very trunk of that question of the unknown God, that I may strike off into some of its other branches also. For it will be first of all proper to inquire, Why he, who afterwards brought himself into notice, did so — so late, and not at the very first? From creatures, with which as God he was indeed so closely connected (and the closer this connection was, the greater was his goodness), he ought never to have been hidden. For it cannot be pretended that there was not either any means of arriving at the knowledge of God, or a good reason for it, when from the beginning man was in the world, for whom the deliverance is now come; as was also that malevolence of the Creator, in opposition to which the good God has wrought the deliverance. He was therefore either ignorant of the good reason for and means of his own necessary manifestation, or doubted them; or else was either unable or unwilling to encounter them. All these alternatives are unworthy of God, especially the supreme and best. This topic, however, we shall afterwards more fully treat, with a condemnation of the tardy manifestation; we at present simply point it out.
Well, then, he has now advanced into notice, just when he willed, when he could, when the destined hour arrived. For perhaps he was hindered hitherto by his leading star, or some weird malignants, or Saturn in quadrature, or Mars at the trine. The Marcionites are very strongly addicted to astrology; nor do they blush to get their livelihood by help of the very stars which were made by the Creator (whom they depreciate). We must here also treat of the quality of the (new) revelation; whether Marcion’s supreme god has become known in a way worthy of him, so as to secure the proof of his existence: and in the way of truth, so that he may be believed to be the very being who had been already proved to have been revealed in a manner worthy of his character. For things which are worthy of God will prove the existence of God.
We maintain that God must first be known from nature, and afterwards authenticated by instruction: from nature, by His works; by instruction, through His revealed announcements. Now, in a case where nature is excluded, no natural means (of knowledge) are furnished. He ought, therefore, to have carefully supplied a revelation of himself, even by announcements, especially as he had to be revealed in opposition to One who, after so many and so great works, both of creation and revealed announcement, had with difficulty succeeded in satisfying men’s faith. In what manner, therefore, has the revelation been made? If by man’s conjectural guesses, do not say that God can possibly become known in any other way than by Himself, and appeal not only to the standard of the Creator, but to the conditions both of God’s greatness and man’s littleness; so that man seem not by any possibility to be greater than God, by having somehow drawn Him out into public recognition, when He was Himself unwilling to become known by His own energies, although man’s littleness has been able, according to experiments all over the world, more easily to fashion for itself gods, than to follow the true God whom men now understand by nature. As for the rest, if man shall be thus able to devise a god, — as Romulus did Consus, and Tatius Cloacina, and Hostilius Fear, and Metellus Alburnus, and a certain authority some time since Antinous, — the same accomplishment may be allowed to others. As for us, we have found our pilot in Marcion, although not a king nor an emperor.
Well, but our god, say the Marcionites, although he did not manifest himself from the beginning and by means of the creation, has yet revealed himself in Christ Jesus. A book will be devoted to Christ, treating of His entire state; for it is desirable that these subject-matters should be distinguished one from another, in order that they may receive a fuller and more methodical treatment. Meanwhile it will be sufficient if, at this stage of the question, I show — and that but briefly — that Christ Jesus is the revealer of none other god but the Creator. In the fifteenth year of Tiberius, Christ Jesus vouchsafed to come down from heaven, as the spirit of saving health. I cared not to inquire, indeed, in what particular year of the elder Antoninus, he who had so gracious a purpose did rather, like a pestilential sirocco, exhale this health or salvation, which Marcion teaches from his Pontus. Of this teacher there is no doubt that he is a heretic of the Antonine period, impious under the pious. Now, from Tiberius to Antoninus Pius, there are about 115 years and 6 1/2 months. Just such an interval do they place between Christ and Marcion.
Inasmuch, then, as Marcion, as we have shown, first introduced this God to notice in the time of Antoninus, the matter becomes at once clear, if you are a shrewd observer. The dates already decide the case, that he who came to light for the first time in the reign of Antoninus, did not appear in that of Tiberius; in other words, that the God of the Antonine period was not the God of the Tiberian; and consequently, that he whom Marcion has plainly preached for the first time, was not revealed by Christ (who announced His revelation as early as the reign of Tiberius). Now, to prove clearly what remains of the argument, I shall draw materials from my very adversaries. Marcion’s special and principal work is the separation of the law and the gospel; and his disciples will not deny that in this point they have their very best pretext for initiating and confirming themselves in his heresy. These are Marcion’s Antitheses, or contradictory propositions, which aim at committing the gospel to a variance with the law, in order that from the diversity of the two documents which contain them, they may contend for a diversity of gods also.
Since, therefore, it is this very opposition between the law and the gospel which has suggested that the God of the gospel is different from the God of the law, it is clear that, before the said separation, that god could not have been known who became known from the argument of the separation itself. He therefore could not have been revealed by Christ, who came before the separation, but must have been devised by Marcion, the author of the breach of peace between the gospel and the law. Now this peace, which had remained unhurt and unshaken from Christ’s appearance to the time of Marcion’s audacious doctrine, was no doubt maintained by that way of thinking, which firmly held that the God of both law and gospel was none other than the Creator, against whom after so long a time a separation has been introduced by the heretic of Pontus.
This most patent conclusion requires to be defended by us against the clamors of the opposite side. For they allege that Marcion did not so much innovate on the rule (of faith) by his separation of the law and the gospel, as restore it after it had been previously adulterated. O Christ, most enduring Lord, who didst bear so many years with this interference with Thy revelation, until Marcion forsooth came to Thy rescue! Now they adduce the case of Peter himself, and the others, who were pillars of the apostolate, as having been blamed by Paul for not walking uprightly, according to the truth of the gospel — that very Paul indeed, who, being yet in the mere rudiments of grace, and trembling, in short, lest he should have run or were still running in vain, then for the first time held intercourse with those who were apostles before himself. Therefore because, in the eagerness of his zeal against Judaism as a neophyte, he thought that there was something to be blamed in their conduct — even the promiscuousness of their conversation — but afterwards was himself to become in his practice all things to all men, that he might gain all, — to the Jews, as a Jew, and to them that were under the law, as under the law, — you would have his censure, which was merely directed against conduct destined to become acceptable even to their accuser, suspected of prevarication against God on a point of public doctrine.
Touching their public doctrine, however, they had, as we have already said, joined hands in perfect concord, and had agreed also in the division of their labor in their fellowship of the gospel, as they had indeed in all other respects: “Whether it were I or they, so we preach.” [1 Corinthians 15:11.] When, again, he mentioned “certain false brethren as having crept in unawares,” who wished to remove the Galatians into another gospel, he himself shows that that adulteration of the gospel was not meant to transfer them to the faith of another god and christ, but rather to perpetuate the teaching of the law; because he blames them for maintaining circumcision, and observing times, and days, and months, and years, according to those Jewish ceremonies which they ought to have known were now abrogated, according to the new dispensation purposed by the Creator Himself, who of old foretold this very thing by His prophets. Thus He says by Isaiah: Old things have passed away. “Behold, I will do a new thing.” [Isaiah 43:19.] And in another passage: “I will make a new covenant, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.” [Jeremiah 31:3132.] In like manner by Jeremiah: Make to yourselves a new covenant, “circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart.” [Jeremiah 4:4.]
It is this circumcision, therefore, and this renewal, which the apostle insisted on, when he forbade those ancient ceremonies concerning which their very founder announced that they were one day to cease; thus by Hosea: “I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast-days, her new moons, and her Sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.” [Hosea 2:11.] So likewise by Isaiah: “The new moons, and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; your holy days, and fasts, and feast-days, my soul hateth.” [Isaiah 1:13-14.] Now, if even the Creator had so long before discarded all these things, and the apostle was now proclaiming them to be worthy of renunciation, the very agreement of the apostle’s meaning with the decrees of the Creator proves that none other God was preached by the apostle than He whose purposes he now wished to have recognized, branding as false both apostles and brethren, for the express reason that they were pushing back the gospel of Christ the Creator from the new condition which the Creator had foretold, to the old one which He had discarded.
Now if it was with the view of preaching a new god that he was eager to abrogate the law of the old God, how is it that he prescribes no rule about the new god, but solely about the old law, if it be not because faith in the Creator was still to continue, and His law alone was to come to an end? — just as the Psalmist had declared: “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against His Anointed.” [Psalm 2:13.] And, indeed, if another god were preached by Paul, there could be no doubt about the law, whether it were to be kept or not, because of course it would not belong to the new Lord, the enemy of the law. The very newness and difference of the god would take away not only all question about the old and alien law, but even all mention of it. But the whole question, as it then stood, was this, that although the God of the law was the same as was preached in Christ, yet there was a disparagement of His law.
Permanent still, therefore, stood faith in the Creator and in His Christ; manner of life and discipline alone fluctuated. Some disputed about eating idol sacrifices, others about the veiled dress of women, others again about marriage and divorce, and some even about the hope of the resurrection; but about God no one disputed. Now, if this question also had entered into dispute, surely it would be found in the apostle, and that too as a great and vital point. No doubt, after the time of the apostles, the truth respecting the belief of God suffered corruption, but it is equally certain that during the life of the apostles their teaching on this great article did not suffer at all; so that no other teaching will have the right of being received as apostolic than that which is at the present day proclaimed in the churches of apostolic foundation.
You will, however, find no church of apostolic origin but such as reposes its Christian faith in the Creator. But if the churches shall prove to have been corrupt from the beginning, where shall the pure ones be found? Will it be amongst the adversaries of the Creator? Show us, then, one of your churches, tracing its descent from an apostle, and you will have gained the day. Forasmuch then as it is on all accounts evident that there was from Christ down to Marcion’s time no other God in the rule of sacred truth than the Creator, the proof of our argument is sufficiently established, in which we have shown that the god of our heretic first became known by his separation of the gospel and the law. Our previous position is accordingly made good, that no god is to be believed whom any man has devised out of his own conceits; except indeed the man be a prophet, and then his own conceits would not be concerned in the matter. If Marcion, however, shall be able to lay claim to this inspired character, it will be necessary for it to be shown. There must be no doubt or paltering. For all heresy is thrust out by this wedge of the truth, that Christ is proved to be the revealer of no God else but the Creator.
But how shall (this) Antichrist be fully overthrown unless we relax our defense by mere prescription, and give ourselves scope for rebutting all his other attacks? Let us therefore next take the very person of God Himself, or rather His shadow or phantom, as we have it in Christ, and let Him be examined by that condition which makes Him superior to the Creator. And undoubtedly there will come to hand unmistakable rules for examining God’s goodness. My first point, however, is to discover and apprehend the attribute, and then to draw it out into rules. Now, when I survey the subject in its aspects of time, I nowhere descry it from the beginning of material existences, or at the commencement of those causes, with which it ought to have been found, proceeding thence to do whatever had to be done. For there was death already, and sin the sting of death, and that malignity too of the Creator, against which the goodness of the other god should have been ready to bring relief; falling in with this as the primary rule of the divine goodness (if it were to prove itself a natural agency), at once coming as a succor when the cause for it began. For in God all things should be natural and inbred, just like His own condition indeed, in order that they may be eternal, and so not be accounted casual and extraneous, and thereby temporary and wanting in eternity.
In God, therefore, goodness is required to be both perpetual and unbroken, such as, being stored up and kept ready in the treasures of His natural properties, might precede its own causes and material developments; and if thus preceding, might underlie every first material cause, instead of looking at it from a distance, and standing aloof from it. In short, here too I must inquire, Why his goodness did not operate from the beginning? no less pointedly than when we inquired concerning himself, Why he was not revealed from the very first? Why, then, did it not? since he had to be revealed by his goodness if he had any existence. That God should at all fail in power must not be thought, much less that He should not discharge all His natural functions; for if these were restrained from running their course, they would cease to be natural. Moreover, the nature of God Himself knows nothing of inactivity. Hence (His goodness) is reckoned as having a beginning, if it acts. It will thus be evident that He had no unwillingness to exercise His goodness at any time on account of His nature. Indeed, it is impossible that He should be unwilling because of His nature, since that so directs itself that it would no longer exist if it ceased to act.
In Marcion’s god, however, goodness ceased from operation at some time or other. A goodness, therefore, which could thus at any time have ceased its action was not natural, because with natural properties such cessation is incompatible. And if it shall not prove to be natural, it must no longer be believed to be eternal nor competent to Deity; because it cannot be eternal so long as, failing to be natural, it neither provides from the past nor guarantees for the future any means of perpetuating itself. Now as a fact it existed not from the beginning, and, doubtless, will not endure to the end. For it is possible for it to fail in existence some future time or other, as it has failed in some past period. Forasmuch, then, as the goodness of Marcion’s god failed in the beginning (for he did not from the first deliver man), this failure must have been the effect of will rather than of infirmity. Now a willful suppression of goodness will be found to have a malignant end in view. For what malignity is so great as to be unwilling to do good when one can, or to thwart what is useful, or to permit injury?
The whole description, therefore, of Marcion’s Creator will have to be transferred to his new god, who helped on the ruthless proceedings of the former by the retardation of his own goodness. For whosoever has it in his power to prevent the happening of a thing, is accounted responsible for it if it should occur. Man is condemned to death for tasting the fruit of one poor tree, and thence proceed sins with their penalties; and now all are perishing who yet never saw a single sod of Paradise. And all this your better god either is ignorant of, or else brooks. Is it that he might on this account be deemed the better, and the Creator be regarded as all that the worse? Even if this were his purpose he would be malicious enough, for both wishing to aggravate his rival’s obloquy by permitting His (evil) works to be done, and by keeping the world harassed by the wrong. What would you think of a physician who should encourage a disease by withholding the remedy, and prolong the danger by delaying his prescription, in order that his cure might be more costly and more renowned? Such must be the sentence to be pronounced against Marcion’s god: tolerant of evil, encouraging wrong, wheedling about his grace, prevaricating in his goodness, which he did not exhibit simply on its own account, but which he must mean to exhibit purely, if he is good by nature and not by acquisition, if he is supremely good in attribute and not by discipline, if he is God from eternity and not from Tiberius, nay (to speak more truly), from Cerdon only and Marcion. As the case now stands, however, such a god as we are considering would have been more fit for Tiberius, that the goodness of the Divine Being might be inaugurated in the world under his imperial sway!
Here is another rule for him. All the properties of God ought to be as rational as they are natural. I require reason in His goodness, because nothing else can properly be accounted good than that which is rationally good; much less can goodness itself be detected in any irrationality. More easily will an evil thing which has something rational belonging to it be accounted good, than that a good thing bereft of all reasonable quality should escape being regarded as evil. Now I deny that the goodness of Marcion’s god is rational, on this account first, because it proceeded to the salvation of a human creature which was alien to him. I am aware of the plea which they will adduce, that that is rather a primary and perfect goodness which is shed voluntarily and freely upon strangers without any obligation of friendship, on the principle that we are bidden to love even our enemies, such as are also on that very account strangers to us. Now, inasmuch as from the first he had no regard for man, a stranger to him from the first, he settled beforehand, by this neglect of his, that he had nothing to do with an alien creature. Besides, the rule of loving a stranger or enemy is preceded by the precept of your loving your neighbor as yourself; and this precept, although coming from the Creator’s law, even you ought to receive, because, so far from being abrogated by Christ, it has rather been confirmed by Him. For you are bidden to love your enemy and the stranger, in order that you may love your neighbor the better. The requirement of the undue is an augmentation of the due benevolence. But the due precedes the undue, as the principal quality, and more worthy of the other, for its attendant and companion. Since, therefore, the first step in the reasonableness of the divine goodness is that it displays itself on its proper object in righteousness, and only at its second stage on an alien object by a redundant righteousness over and above that of scribes and Pharisees, how comes it to pass that the second is attributed to him who fails in the first, not having man for his proper object, and who makes his goodness on this very account defective?
Moreover, how could a defective benevolence, which had no proper object whereon to expend itself, overflow on an alien one? Clear up the first step, and then vindicate the next. Nothing can be claimed as rational without order, much less can reason itself dispense with order in any one. Suppose now the divine goodness begin at the second stage of its rational operation, that is to say, on the stranger, this second stage will not be consistent in rationality if it be impaired in any way else. For only then will even the second stage of goodness, that which is displayed towards the stranger, be accounted rational, when it operates without wrong to him who has the first claim. It is righteousness which before everything else makes all goodness rational. It will thus be rational in its principal stage, when manifested on its proper object, if it be righteous. And thus, in like manner, it will be able to appear rational, when displayed towards the stranger, if it be not unrighteous. But what sort of goodness is that which is manifested in wrong, and that in behalf of an alien creature? For peradventure a benevolence, even when operating injuriously, might be deemed to some extent rational, if exerted for one of our own house and home. By what rule, however, can an unjust benevolence, displayed on behalf of a stranger, to whom not even an honest one is legitimately due, be defended as a rational one? For what is more unrighteous, more unjust, more dishonest, than so to benefit an alien slave as to take him away from his master, claim him as the property of another, and suborn him against his master’s life; and all this, to make the matter more iniquitous still whilst he is yet living in his master’s house and on his master’s garner, and still trembling beneath his stripes?
Such a deliverer, I had almost said kidnapper, would even meet with condemnation in the world. Now, no other than this is the character of Marcion’s god, swooping upon an alien world, snatching away man from his God, the son from his father, the pupil from his tutor, the servant from his master — to make him impious to his God, undutiful to his father, ungrateful to his tutor, worthless to his master. If, now, the rational benevolence makes man such, what sort of being prithee would the irrational make of him? None I should think more shameless than him who is baptized to his god in water which belongs to another, who stretches out his hands to his god towards a heaven which is another’s, who kneels to his god on ground which is another’s, offers his thanksgivings to his god over bread which belongs to another, and distributes by way of alms and charity, for the sake of his god, gifts which belong to another God. Who, then, is that so good a god of theirs, that man through him becomes evil; so propitious, too, as to incense against man that other God who is, indeed, his own proper Lord?
But as God is eternal and rational, so, I think, He is perfect in all things. “Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” [Matthew 5:48.] Prove, then, that the goodness of your God also is a perfect one. That it is indeed imperfect has been already sufficiently shown, since it is found to be neither natural nor rational. The same conclusion, however, shall now be made clear by another method; it is not simply imperfect, but actually feeble, weak, and exhausted, failing to embrace the full number of its material objects, and not manifesting itself in them all. For all are not put into a state of salvation by it; but the Creator’s subjects, both Jew and Christian, are all excepted. Now, when the greater part thus perish, how can that goodness be defended as a perfect one which is inoperative in most cases, is somewhat only in few, nought in many, succumbs to perdition, and is a partner with destruction? And if so many shall miss salvation, it will not be with goodness, but with malignity, that the greater perfection will lie. For as it is the operation of goodness which brings salvation, so is it malevolence which thwarts it. Since, however, this goodness) saves but few, and so rather leans to the alternative of not saving, it will show itself to greater perfection by not interposing help than by helping.
Now, you will not be able to attribute goodness (to your god) in reference to the Creator, (if accompanied with) failure towards all. For whomsoever you call in to judge the question, it is as a dispenser of goodness, if so be such a title can be made out, and not as a squanderer thereof, as you claim your god to be, that you must submit the divine character for determination. So long, then, as you prefer your god to the Creator on the simple ground of his goodness, and since he professes to have this attribute as solely and wholly his own, he ought not to have been wanting in it to any one. However, I do not now wish to prove that Marcion’s god is imperfect in goodness because of the perdition of the greater number. I am content to illustrate this imperfection by the fact that even those whom he saves are found to possess but an imperfect salvation — that is, they are saved only so far as the soul is concerned, but lost in their body, which, according to him, does not rise again. Now, whence comes this halving of salvation, if not from a failure of goodness? What could have been a better proof of a perfect goodness, than the recovery of the whole man to salvation?
Totally damned by the Creator, he should have been totally restored by the most merciful god. I rather think that by Marcion’s rule the body is baptized, is deprived of marriage, is cruelly tortured in confession. But although sins are attributed to the body, yet they are preceded by the guilty concupiscence of the soul; nay, the first motion of sin must be ascribed to the soul, to which the flesh acts in the capacity of a servant. By and by, when freed from the soul, the flesh sins no more. So that in this matter goodness is unjust, and likewise imperfect, in that it leaves to destruction the more harmless substance, which sins rather by compliance than in will. Now, although Christ put not on the verity of the flesh, as your heresy is pleased to assume, He still vouchsafed to take upon Him the semblance thereof. Surely, therefore, some regard was due to it from Him, because of this His feigned assumption of it. Besides, what else is man than flesh, since no doubt it was the corporeal rather than the spiritual element from which the Author of man’s nature gave him his designation? “And the LORD God made man of the dust of the ground,” not of spiritual essence; this afterwards came from the divine afflatus: “and man became a living soul.” [Genesis 2:7.]
What, then, is man? Made, no doubt of it, of the dust; and God placed him in paradise, because He molded him, not breathed him, into being — a fabric of flesh, not of spirit. Now, this being the case, with what face will you contend for the perfect character of that goodness which did not fail in some one particular only of man’s deliverance, but in its general capacity? If that is a plenary grace and a substantial mercy which brings salvation to the soul alone, this were the better life which we now enjoy whole and entire; whereas to rise again but in part will be a chastisement, not a liberation. The proof of the perfect goodness is, that man, after his rescue, should be delivered from the domicile and power of the malignant deity unto the protection of the most good and merciful God. Poor dupe of Marcion, fever is hard upon you; and your painful flesh produces a crop of all sorts of briers and thorns. Nor is it only to the Creator’s thunderbolts that you lie exposed, or to wars, and pestilences, and His other heavier strokes, but even to His creeping insects. In what respect do you suppose yourself liberated from His kingdom when His flies are still creeping upon your face? If your deliverance lies in the future, why not also in the present, that it may be perfectly wrought? Far different is our condition in the sight of Him who is the Author, the Judge, the injured Head of our race! You display Him as a merely good God; but you are unable to prove that He is perfectly good, because you are not by Him perfectly delivered.
As touching this question of goodness, we have in these outlines of our argument shown it to be in no way compatible with Deity, — as being neither natural, nor rational, nor perfect, but wrong, and unjust, and unworthy of the very name of goodness, — because, as far as the congruity of the divine character is concerned, it cannot indeed be fitting that that Being should be regarded as God who is alleged to have such a goodness, and that not in a modified way, but simply and solely. For it is, furthermore, at this point quite open to discussion, whether God ought to be regarded as a Being of simple goodness, to the exclusion of all those other attributes, sensations, and affections, which the Marcionites indeed transfer from their god to the Creator, and which we acknowledge to be worthy characteristics of the Creator too, but only because we consider Him to be God. Well, then, on this ground we shall deny him to be God in whom all things are not to be found which befit the Divine Being.
If (Marcion) chose to take any one of the school of Epicurus, and entitle him God in the name of Christ, on the ground that what is happy and incorruptible can bring no trouble either on itself or anything else (for Marcion, while poring over this opinion of the divine indifference, has removed from him all the severity and energy of the judicial character), it was his duty to have developed his conceptions into some imperturbable and listless god (and then what could he have had in common with Christ, who occasioned trouble both to the Jews by what He taught, and to Himself by what He felt?), or else to have admitted that he was possessed of the same emotions as others (and in such case what would he have had to do with Epicurus, who was no friend to either him or Christians?). For that a being who in ages past was in a quiescent state, not caring to communicate any knowledge of himself by any work all the while, should come after so long a time to entertain a concern for man’s salvation, of course by his own will, — did he not by this very fact become susceptible of the impulse of a new volition, so as palpably to be open to all other emotions? But what volition is unaccompanied with the spur of desire? Who wishes for what he desires not? Moreover, care will be another companion of the will. For who will wish for any object and desire to have it, without also caring to obtain it?
When, therefore, (Marcion’s god) felt both a will and a desire for man’s salvation, he certainly occasioned some concern and trouble both to himself and others. This Marcion’s theory suggests, though Epicurus demurs. For he raised up an adversary against himself in that very thing against which his will and desire, and care were directed, — whether it were sin or death, — and more especially in their Tyrant and Lord, the Creator of man. Again, nothing will ever run its course without hostile rivalry, which shall not (itself) be without a hostile aspect. In fact, when willing, desiring, and caring to deliver man, (Marcion’s god) already in the very act encounters a rival, both in Him from whom He effects the deliverance (for of course he means the liberation to be an opposition to Him), and also in those things from which the deliverance is wrought (the intended liberation being to the advantage of some other things). For it must needs be, that upon rivalry its own ancillary passions will be in attendance, against whatever objects its emulation is directed: anger, discord, hatred, disdain, indignation, spleen, loathing, displeasure. Now, since all these emotions are present to rivalry; since, moreover, the rivalry which arises in liberating man excites them; and since, again, this deliverance of man is an operation of goodness, it follows that this goodness avails nothing without its endowments, that is to say, without those sensations and affections whereby it carries out its purpose against the Creator; so that it cannot even in this be ruled to be irrational, as if it were wanting in proper sensations and affections. These points we shall have to insist on much more fully, when we come to plead the cause of the Creator, where they will also incur our condemnation.
But it is here sufficient that the extreme perversity of their god is proved from the mere exposition of his lonely goodness, in which they refuse to ascribe to him such emotions of mind as they censure in the Creator. Now, if he is susceptible of no feeling of rivalry, or anger, or damage, or injury, as one who refrains from exercising judicial power, I cannot tell how any system of discipline — and that, too, a plenary one — can be consistent in him. For how is it possible that he should issue commands, if he does not mean to execute them; or forbid sins, if he intends not to punish them, but rather to decline the functions of the judge, as being a stranger to all notions of severity and judicial chastisement? For why does he forbid the commission of that which he punishes not when perpetrated? It would have been far more right, if he had not forbidden what he meant not to punish, than that he should punish what he had not forbidden. Nay, it was his duty even to have permitted what he was about to prohibit in so unreasonable a way, as to annex no penalty to the offense. For even now that is tacitly permitted which is forbidden without any infliction of vengeance. Besides, he only forbids the commission of that which he does not like to have done.
Most listless, therefore, is he, since he takes no offense at the doing of what he dislikes to be done, although displeasure ought to be the companion of his violated will. Now, if he is offended, he ought to be angry; if angry, he ought to inflict punishment. For such infliction is the just fruit of anger, and anger is the debt of displeasure, and displeasure (as I have said) is the companion of a violated will. However, he inflicts no punishment; therefore he takes no offense. He takes no offense, therefore his will is not wronged, although that is done which he was unwilling to have done; and the transgression is now committed with the acquiescence of his will, because whatever offends not the will is not committed against the will. Now, if this is to be the principle of the divine virtue or goodness, to be unwilling indeed that a thing be done and to prohibit it, and yet not be moved by its commission, we then allege that he has been moved already when he declared his unwillingness; and that it is vain for him not to be moved by the accomplishment of a thing after being moved at the possibility thereof, when he willed it not to be done. For he prohibited it by his not willing it.
Did he not therefore do a judicial act, when he declared his unwillingness, and consequent prohibition of it? For he judged that it ought not to be done, and he deliberately declared that it should be forbidden. Consequently by this time even he performs the part of a judge. If it is unbecoming for God to discharge a judicial function, or at least only so far becoming that He may merely declare His unwillingness, and pronounce His prohibition, then He may not even punish for an offense when it is committed. Now, nothing is so unworthy of the Divine Being as not to execute retribution on what He has disliked and forbidden. First, He owes the infliction of chastisement to whatever sentence or law He promulges, for the vindication of His authority and the maintenance of submission to it; secondly, because hostile opposition is inevitable to what He has disliked to be done, and by that dislike forbidden. Moreover, it would be a more unworthy course for God to spare the evil-doer than to punish him, especially in the most good and holy God, who is not otherwise fully good than as the enemy of evil, and that to such a degree as to display His love of good by the hatred of evil, and to fulfill His defense of the former by the extirpation of the latter.
Again, he plainly judges evil by not willing it, and condemns it by prohibiting it; while, on the other hand, he acquits it by not avenging it, and lets it go free by not punishing it. What a prevaricator of truth is such a god! What a dissembler with his own decision! Afraid to condemn what he really condemns, afraid to hate what he does not love, permitting that to be done which he does not allow, choosing to indicate what he dislikes rather than deeply examine it! This will turn out an imaginary goodness, a phantom of discipline, perfunctory in duty, careless in sin.
Listen, ye sinners; and ye who have not yet come to this, hear, that you may attain to such a pass! A better god has been discovered, who never takes offense, is never angry, never inflicts punishment, who has prepared no fire in hell, no gnashing of teeth in the outer darkness! He is purely and simply good. He indeed forbids all delinquency, but only in word. He is in you, if you are willing to pay him homage, for the sake of appearances, that you may seem to honor God; for your fear he does not want. And so satisfied are the Marcionites with such pretenses, that they have no fear of their god at all. They say it is only a bad man who will be feared, a good man will be loved. Foolish man, do you say that he whom you call Lord ought not to be feared, whilst the very title you give him indicates a power which must itself be feared? But how are you going to love, without some fear that you do not love? Surely (such a god) is neither your Father, towards whom your love for duty’s sake should be consistent with fear because of His power; nor your proper Lord, whom you should love for His humanity and fear as your teacher. Kidnappers indeed are loved after this fashion, but they are not feared. For power will not be feared, except it be just and regular, although it may possibly be loved even when corrupt: for it is by allurement that it stands, not by authority; by flattery, not by proper influence. And what can be more direct flattery than not to punish sins?
Come, then, if you do not fear God as being good, why do you not boil over into every kind of lust, and so realize that which is, I believe, the main enjoyment of life to all who fear not God? Why do you not frequent the customary pleasures of the maddening circus, the bloodthirsty arena, and the lascivious theater? Why in persecutions also do you not, when the censer is presented, at once redeem your life by the denial of your faith? God forbid, you say with redoubled emphasis. So you do fear sin, and by your fear prove that He is an object of fear Who forbids the sin. This is quite a different matter from that obsequious homage you pay to the god whom you do not fear, which is identical in perversity indeed to his own conduct, in prohibiting a thing without annexing the sanction of punishment. Still more vainly do they act, who when asked, What is to become of every sinner in that great day? reply, that he is to be cast away out of sight. Is not even this a question of judicial determination? He is adjudged to deserve rejection, and that by a sentence of condemnation; unless the sinner is cast away forsooth for his salvation, that even a leniency like this may fall in consistently with the character of your most good and excellent god! And what will it be to be cast away, but to lose that which a man was in the way of obtaining, were it not for his rejection — that is, his salvation? Therefore his being cast away will involve the forfeiture of salvation; and this sentence cannot possibly be passed upon him, except by an angry and offended authority, who is also the punisher of sin — that is, by a judge.
And what will happen to him after he is cast away? He will, they say, be thrown into the Creator’s fire. Then has no remedial provision been made (by their god) for the purpose of banishing those that sin against him, without resorting to the cruel measure of delivering them over to the Creator? And what will the Creator then do? I suppose He will prepare for them a hell doubly charged with brimstone, as for blasphemers against Himself; except indeed their god in his zeal, as perhaps might happen, should show clemency to his rival’s revolted subjects. Oh, what a god is this! everywhere perverse; nowhere rational; in all cases vain; and therefore a nonentity! — in whose state, and condition, and nature, and every appointment, I see no coherence and consistency; no, not even in the very sacrament of his faith! For what end does baptism serve, according to him? If the remission of sins, how will he make it evident that he remits sins, when he affords no evidence that he retains them? Because he would retain them, if he performed the functions of a judge. If deliverance from death, how could he deliver from death, who has not delivered to death? For he must have delivered the sinner to death, if he had from the beginning condemned sin.
If the regeneration of man, how can he regenerate, who has never generated? For the repetition of an act is impossible to him, by whom nothing any time has been ever done. If the bestowal of the Holy Ghost, how will he bestow the Spirit, who did not at first impart the life? For the life is in a sense the supplement of the Spirit. He therefore seals man, who had never been unsealed in respect of him; washes man, who had never been defiled so far as he was concerned; and into this sacrament of salvation wholly plunges that flesh which is beyond the pale of salvation! No farmer will irrigate ground that will yield him no fruit in return, except he be as stupid as Marcion’s god. Why then impose sanctity upon our most infirm and most unworthy flesh, either as a burden or as a glory? What shall I say, too, of the uselessness of a discipline which sanctifies what is already sanctified? Why burden the infirm, or glorify the unworthy? Why not remunerate with salvation what it burdens or else glorifies? Why keep back from a work its due reward, by not recompensing the flesh with salvation? Why even permit the honor of sanctity in it to die?
The flesh is not, according to Marcion, immersed in the water of the sacrament, unless it be in virginity, widowhood, or celibacy, or has purchased by divorce a title to baptism, as if even generative impotents did not all receive their flesh from nuptial union. Now, such a scheme as this must no doubt involve the proscription of marriage. Let us see, then, whether it be a just one: not as if we aimed at destroying the happiness of sanctity, as do certain Nicolaitans in their maintenance of lust and luxury, but as those who have come to the knowledge of sanctity, and pursue it and prefer it, without detriment, however, to marriage; not as if we superseded a bad thing by a good, but only a good thing by a better. For we do not reject marriage, but simply refrain from it. Nor do we prescribe sanctity as the rule, but only recommend it, observing it as a good, yea, even the better state, if each man uses it carefully according to his ability; but at the same time earnestly vindicating marriage, whenever hostile attacks are made against it is a polluted thing, to the disparagement of the Creator.
For He bestowed His blessing on matrimony also, as on an honorable estate, for the increase of the human race; as He did indeed on the whole of His creation, for wholesome and good uses. Meats and drinks are not on this account to be condemned, because, when served up with too exquisite a daintiness, they conduce to gluttony; nor is raiment to be blamed, because, when too costly adorned, it becomes inflated with vanity and pride. So, on the same principle, the estate of matrimony is not to be refused, because, when enjoyed without moderation, it is fanned into a voluptuous flame. There is a great difference between a cause and a fault, between a state and its excess. Consequently it is not an institution of this nature that is to be blamed, but the extravagant use of it; according to the judgment of its founder Himself, who not only said, “Be fruitful, and multiply,” but also, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife;” [Exodus 20:17] and who threatened with death the unchaste, sacrilegious, and monstrous abomination both of adultery and unnatural sin with man and beast.
Now, if any limitation is set to marrying — such as the spiritual rule, which prescribes but one marriage under the Christian obedience, maintained by the authority of the Paraclete, — it will be His prerogative to fix the limit Who had once been diffuse in His permission; His to gather, Who once scattered; His to cut down the tree, Who planted it; His to reap the harvest, Who sowed the seed; His to declare, “It remaineth that they who have wives be as though they had none,” Who once said, “Be fruitful, and multiply;” [Genesis 1:28] His the end to Whom belonged the beginning. Nevertheless, the tree is not cut down as if it deserved blame; nor is the corn reaped, as if it were to be condemned, — but simply because their time is come. So likewise the state of matrimony does not require the hook and scythe of sanctity, as if it were evil; but as being ripe for its discharge, and in readiness for that sanctity which will in the long run bring it a plenteous crop by its reaping. For this leads me to remark of Marcion’s god, that in reproaching marriage as an evil and unchaste thing, he is really prejudicing the cause of that very sanctity which he seems to serve. For he destroys the material on which it subsists; if there is to be no marriage, there is no sanctity. All proof of abstinence is lost when excess is impossible; for sundry things have thus their evidence in their contraries. Just as “strength is made perfect in weakness,” so likewise is continence made manifest by the permission to marry. Who indeed will be called continent, if that be taken away which gives him the opportunity of pursuing a life of continence? What room for temperance in appetite does famine give? What repudiation of ambitious projects does poverty afford? What bridling of lust can the eunuch merit?
To put a complete stop, however, to the sowing of the human race, may, for aught I know, be quite consistent for Marcion’s most good and excellent god. For how could he desire the salvation of man, whom he forbids to be born, when he takes away that institution from which his birth arises? How will he find any one on whom to set the mark of his goodness, when he suffers him not to come into existence? How is it possible to love him whose origin he hates? Perhaps he is afraid of a redundant population, lest he should be weary in liberating so many; lest he should have to make many heretics; lest Marcionite parents should produce too many noble disciples of Marcion. The cruelty of Pharaoh, which slew its victims at their birth, will not prove to be more inhuman in comparison. For while he destroyed lives, our heretic’s god refuses to give them: the one removes from life, the other admits none to it. There is no difference in either as to their homicide — man is slain by both of them; by the former just after birth, by the latter as yet unborn. Thanks should we owe thee, thou god of our heretic, hadst thou only checked the dispensation of the Creator in uniting male and female; for from such a union indeed has thy Marcion been born!
Enough; however, of Marcion’s god, who is shown to have absolutely no existence at all, both by our definitions of the one only Godhead, and the condition of his attributes. The whole course, however, of this little work aims directly at this conclusion. If, therefore, we seem to anybody to have achieved but little result as yet, let him reserve his expectations, until we examine the very Scripture which Marcion quotes.
THE occasion of reproducing this little work, the fortunes of which we noticed in the preface of our first book, has furnished us with the opportunity of distinguishing, in our treatment of the subject of two Gods in opposition to Marcion, each of them with a description and section of his own, according to the division of the subject-matter, defining one of the gods to have no existence at all, and maintaining of the Other that He is rightly God; thus far keeping pace with the heretic of Pontus, who has been pleased to admit one unto, and exclude the other. For he could not build up his mendacious scheme without pulling down the system of truth. He found it necessary to demolish some other thing, in order to build up the theory which he wished.
This process, however, is like constructing a house without preparing suitable materials. The discussion ought to have been directed to this point alone, that he is no god who supersedes the Creator. Then, when the false god had been excluded by certain rules which prescriptively settle what is the character of the One only perfect Divinity, there could have remained no longer any question as to the true God. The proof of His existence would have been clear, and that, too, amid the failure of all evidence in support of any other god; and still clearer would have seemed the point as to the honor in which He ought without controversy to be held: that He ought to be worshipped rather than judged; served reverentially rather than handled critically, or even dreaded for His severity. For what was more fully needed by man than a careful estimate of the true God, on whom, so to speak, he had alighted, because there was no other god?
We have now, then, cleared our way to the contemplation of the Almighty God, the Lord and Maker of the universe. His greatness, as I think, is shown in this, that from the beginning He made Himself known: He never hid Himself, but always shone out brightly, even before the time of Romulus, to say nothing of that of Tiberius; with the exception indeed that the heretics, and they alone, know Him not, although they take such pains about Him. They on this account suppose that another god must be assumed to exist, because they are more able to censure than deny Him whose existence is so evident, deriving all their thoughts about God from the deductions of sense; just as if some blind man, or a man of imperfect vision, chose to assume some other sun of milder and healthier ray, because he sees not that which is the object of sight. There is, O man, but one sun which rules this world and even when you think otherwise of him, he is best and useful; and although to you he may seem too fierce and baneful, or else, it may be, too sordid and corrupt, he yet is true to the laws of his own existence. Unable as you are to see through those laws, you would be equally impotent to bear the rays of any other sun, were there one, however great and good.
Now, you whose sight is defective in respect of the inferior god, what is your view of the sublimer One? Really you are too lenient to your weakness; and set not yourself to the proof of things, holding God to be certainly, undoubtedly, and therefore sufficiently known, the very moment you have discovered Him to exist, though you know Him not except on the side where He has willed His proofs to lie. But you do not even deny God intelligently, you treat of Him ignorantly; nay, you accuse Him with a semblance of intelligence, whom if you did but know Him, you would never accuse, nay, never treat of. You give Him His name indeed, but you deny the essential truth of that name, that is, the greatness which is called God; not acknowledging it to be such as, were it possible for it to have been known to man in every respect, would not be greatness. Isaiah even so early, with the clearness of an apostle, foreseeing the thoughts of heretical hearts, asked, “Who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counselor? With whom took He counsel?... or who taught Him knowledge, and showed to Him the way of understanding?” [Isaiah 40:13-14.] With whom the apostle agreeing exclaims, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” [Romans 11:33.]
“His judgments unsearchable,” as being those of God the Judge; and “His ways past finding out,” as comprising an understanding and knowledge which no man has ever shown to Him, except it may be those critics of the Divine Being, who say, God ought not to have been this, and He ought rather to have been that; as if any one knew what is in God, except the Spirit of God. Moreover, having the spirit of the world, and “in the wisdom of God by wisdom knowing not God,” they seem to themselves to be wiser than God; because, as the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God, so also the wisdom of God is folly in the world’s esteem. We, however, know that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” [1 Corinthians 1:25.] Accordingly, God is then especially great, when He is small to man; then especially good, when not good in man’s judgment; then especially unique, when He seems to man to be two or more.
Now, if from the very first “the natural man, not receiving the things of the Spirit of God,” [1 Corinthians 2:14] has deemed God’s law to be foolishness, and has therefore neglected to observe it; and as a further consequence, by his not having faith, “even that which he seemeth to have hath been taken from him” — such as the grace of paradise and the friendship of God, by means of which he might have known all things of God, if he had continued in his obedience — what wonder is it, if he, reduced to his material nature, and banished to the toil of tilling the ground, has in his very labor, downcast and earth-gravitating as it was, handed on that earth-derived spirit of the world to his entire race, wholly natural and heretical as it is, and not receiving the things which belong to God? Or who will hesitate to declare the great sin of Adam to have been heresy, when he committed it by the choice of his own will rather than of God’s? Except that Adam never said to his fig-tree, Why hast thou made me thus? He confessed that he was led astray; and he did not conceal the seducer. He was a very rude heretic. He was disobedient; but yet he did not blaspheme his Creator, nor blame that Author of his being, Whom from the beginning of his life he had found to be so good and excellent, and Whom he had perhaps made his own judge from the very first.
It will therefore be right for us, as we enter on the examination of the known God, when the question arises, in what condition He is known to us, to begin with His works, which are prior to man; so that His goodness, being discovered immediately along with Himself, and then constituted and prescriptively settled, may suggest to us some sense whereby we may understand how the subsequent order of things came about. The disciples of Marcion, moreover, may possibly be able, while recognizing the goodness of our God, to learn how worthy it is likewise of the Divine Being, on those very grounds whereby we have proved it to be unworthy in the case of their god. Now this very point, which is a material one in their scheme, Marcion did not find in any other God, but eliminated it for himself out of his own god.
The first goodness, then, was that of the Creator, whereby God was unwilling to remain hidden for ever; in other words, (unwilling) that there should not be a something by which God should become known. For what, indeed, is so good as the knowledge and fruition of God? Now, although it did not transpire that this was good, because as yet there existed nothing to which it could transpire, yet God foreknew what good would eventually transpire, and therefore He set Himself about developing His own perfect goodness, for the accomplishment of the good which was to transpire; not, indeed, a sudden goodness issuing in some accidental boon or in some excited impulse, such as must be dated simply from the moment when it began to operate. For if it did itself produce its own beginning when it began to operate, it had not, in fact, a beginning itself when it acted. When, however, an initial act had been once done by it, the scheme of temporal seasons began, for distinguishing and noting which, the stars and luminaries of heaven were arranged in their order. “Let them be,” says God, “for seasons, and for days, and years.” [Genesis 1:14.]
Previous, then, to this temporal course, (the goodness) which created time had not time; nor before that beginning which the same goodness originated, had it a beginning. Being therefore without all order of a beginning, and all mode of time, it will be reckoned to possess an age, measureless in extent and endless in duration; nor will it be possible to regard it as a sudden or adventitious or impulsive emotion, because it has nothing to occasion such an estimate of itself; in other words, no sort of temporal sequence. It must therefore be accounted an eternal attribute, inbred in God, and everlasting, and on this account worthy of the Divine Being, putting to shame for ever the benevolence of Marcion’s god, subsequent as he is to (I will not say) all beginnings and times, but to the very malignity of the Creator, if indeed malignity could possibly have been found in goodness.
The goodness of God having, therefore, provided man for the pursuit of the knowledge of Himself, added this to its original notification, that it first prepared a habitation for him, the vast fabric (of the world) to begin with, and then afterwards the vaster one (of a higher world,) that he might on a great as well as on a smaller stage practice and advance in his probation, and so be promoted from the good which God had given him, that is, from his high position, to God’s best; that is, to some higher abode. In this good work God employs a most excellent minister, even His own Word. “My heart” He says, “hath emitted my most excellent Word.” [Psalm 45:1.] Let Marcion take hence his first lesson on the noble fruit of this truly most excellent tree. But, like a most clumsy clown, he has grafted a good branch on a bad stock. The sapling, however, of his blasphemy shall be never strong: it shall wither with its planter, and thus shall be manifested the nature of the good tree.
Look at the total result: how fruitful was the Word! God issued His fiat, and it was done: God also saw that it was good; not as if He were ignorant of the good until He saw it; but because it was good, He therefore saw it, and honored it, and set His seal upon it; and consummated the goodness of His works by His vouchsafing to them that contemplation. Thus God blessed what He made good, in order that He might commend Himself to you as whole and perfect, good both in word and act. As yet the Word knew no malediction, because He was a stranger to malefaction. We shall see what reasons required this also of God. Meanwhile the world consisted of all things good, plainly foreshowing how much good was preparing for him for whom all this was provided. Who indeed was so worthy of dwelling amongst the works of God, as he who was His own image and likeness? That image was wrought out by a goodness even more operative than its wont, with no imperious word, but with friendly hand preceded by an almost affable utterance: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” [Genesis 1:26.]
Goodness spake the word; Goodness formed man of the dust of the ground into so great a substance of the flesh, built up out of one material with so many qualities; Goodness breathed into him a soul, not dead but living. Goodness gave him dominion over all things, which he was to enjoy and rule over, and even give names to. In addition to this, Goodness annexed pleasures to man so that, while master of the whole world, he might tarry among higher delights, being translated into paradise, out of the world into the Church. The selfsame Goodness provided also a help meet for him, that there might be nothing in his lot that was not good. For, said He, that the man be alone is not good. He knew full well what a blessing to him would be the sex of Mary, and also of the Church.
The law, however, which you find fault with, and wrest into a subject of contention, was imposed on man by Goodness, aiming at his happiness, that he might cleave to God, and so not show himself an abject creature rather than a free one, nor reduce himself to the level of the other animals, his subjects, which were free from God, and exempt from all tedious subjection; but might, as the sole human being, boast that he alone was worthy of receiving laws from God; and as a rational being, capable of intelligence and knowledge, be restrained within the bounds of rational liberty, subject to Him who had subjected all things unto him. To secure the observance of this law, Goodness likewise took counsel by help of this sanction: “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” [Genesis 2:17.] For it was a most benignant act of His thus to point out the issues of transgression, lest ignorance of the danger should encourage a neglect of obedience. Now, since it was given as a reason previous to the imposition of the law, it also amounted to a motive for subsequently observing it, that a penalty was annexed to its transgression; a penalty, indeed, which He who proposed it was still unwilling that it should be incurred. Learn then the goodness of our God amidst these things and up to this point; learn it from His excellent works, from His kindly blessings, from His indulgent bounties, from His gracious providences, from His laws and warnings, so good and merciful.
Now then, ye dogs, whom the apostle puts outside, and who yelp at the God of truth, let us come to your various questions. These are the bones of contention, which you are perpetually gnawing! If God is good, and prescient of the future, and able to avert evil, why did He permit man, the very image and likeness of Himself, and, by the origin of his soul, His own substance too, to be deceived by the devil, and fall from obedience of the law into death? For if He had been good, and so unwilling that such a catastrophe should happen, and prescient, so as not to be ignorant of what was to come to pass, and powerful enough to hinder its occurrence, that issue would never have come about, which should be impossible under these three conditions of the divine greatness. Since, however, it has occurred, the contrary proposition is most certainly true, that God must be deemed neither good, nor prescient, nor powerful. For as no such issue could have happened had God been such as He is reputed — good, and prescient, and mighty — so has this issue actually happened, because He is not such a God.
In reply, we must first vindicate those attributes in the Creator which are called in question — namely, His goodness and foreknowledge, and power. But I shall not linger long over this point for Christ’s own definition comes to our aid at once. From works must proofs be obtained. The Creator’s works testify at once to His goodness, since they are good, as we have shown, and to His power, since they are mighty, and spring indeed out of nothing. And even if they were made out of some (previous) matter, as some will have it, they are even thus out of nothing, because they were not what they are. In short, both they are great because they are good; and God is likewise mighty, because all things are His own, whence He is almighty. But what shall I say of His prescience, which has for its witnesses as many prophets as it inspired? After all, what title to prescience do we look for in the Author of the universe, since it was by this very attribute that He foreknew all things when He appointed them their places, and appointed them their places when He fore knew them? There is sin itself. If He had not foreknown this, He would not have proclaimed a caution against it under the penalty of death. Now if there were in God such attributes as must have rendered it both impossible and improper for any evil to have happened to man, and yet evil did occur, let us consider man’s condition also — whether it were not, in fact, rather the cause why that came to pass which could not have happened through God.
I find, then, that man was by God constituted free, master of his own will and power; indicating the presence of God’s image and likeness in him by nothing so well as by this constitution of his nature. For it was not by his face, and by the lineaments of his body, though they were so varied in his human nature, that he expressed his likeness to the form of God; but he showed his stamp in that essence which he derived from God Himself (that is, the spiritual, which answered to the form of God), and in the freedom and power of his will. This his state was confirmed even by the very law which God then imposed upon him. For a law would not be imposed upon one who had it not in his power to render that obedience which is due to law; nor again, would the penalty of death be threatened against sin, if a contempt of the law were impossible to man in the liberty of his will. So in the Creator’s subsequent laws also you will find, when He sets before man good and evil, life and death, that the entire course of discipline is arranged in precepts by God’s calling men from sin, and threatening and exhorting them; and this on no other ground than that man is free, with a will either for obedience or resistance.
But although we shall be understood, from our argument, to be only so affirming man’s unshackled power over his will, that what happens to him should be laid to his own charge, and not to God’s, yet that you may not object, even now, that he ought not to have been so constituted, since his liberty and power of will might turn out to be injurious, I will first of all maintain that he was rightly so constituted, that I may with the greater confidence commend both his actual constitution, and the additional fact of its being worthy of the Divine Being; the cause which led to man’s being created with such a constitution being shown to be the better one. Moreover, man thus constituted will be protected by both the goodness of God and by His purpose, both of which are always found in concert in our God. For His purpose is no purpose without goodness; nor is His goodness without a purpose, except forsooth in the case of Marcion’s god, who is purposelessly good, as we have shown.
Well, then, it was proper that God should be known; it was no doubt a good and reasonable thing. Proper also was it that there should be something worthy of knowing God. What could be found so worthy as the image and likeness of God? This also was undoubtedly good and reasonable. Therefore it was proper that (he who is) the image and likeness of God should be formed with a free will and a mastery of himself; so that this very thing — namely, freedom of will and self-command — might be reckoned as the image and likeness of God in him. For this purpose such an essence was adapted to man as suited this character, even the afflatus of the Deity, Himself free and uncontrolled. But if you will take some other view of the case, how came it to pass that man, when in possession of the whole world, did not above all things reign in self-possession — a master over others, a slave to himself? The goodness of God, then, you can learn from His gracious gift to man, and His purpose from His disposal of all things. At present, let God’s goodness alone occupy our attention, that which gave so large a gift to man, even the liberty of his will. God’s purpose claims some other opportunity of treatment, offering as it does instruction of like import.
Now, God alone is good by nature. For He, who has that which is without beginning, has it not by creation, but by nature. Man, however, who exists entirely by creation, having a beginning, along with that beginning obtained the form in which he exists; and thus he is not by nature disposed to good, but by creation, not having it as his own attribute to be good, because, (as we have said,) it is not by nature, but by creation, that he is disposed to good, according to the appointment of his good Creator, even the Author of all good. In order, therefore, that man might have a goodness of his own, bestowed on him by God, and there might be henceforth in man a property, and in a certain sense a natural attribute of goodness, there was assigned to him in the constitution of his nature, as a formal witness of the goodness which God bestowed upon him, freedom and power of the will, such as should cause good to be performed spontaneously by man, as a property of his own, on the ground that no less than this would be required in the matter of a goodness which was to be voluntarily exercised by him, that is to say, by the liberty of his will, without either favor or servility to the constitution of his nature, so that man should be good just up to this point, if he should display his goodness in accordance with his natural constitution indeed, but still as the result of his will, as a property of his nature; and, by a similar exercise of volition, should show himself to be too strong in defense against evil also (for even this God, of course, foresaw), being free, and master of himself; because, if he were wanting in this prerogative of self-mastery, so as to perform even good by necessity and not will, he would, in the helplessness of his servitude, become subject to the usurpation of evil, a slave as much to evil as to good.
Entire freedom of will, therefore, was conferred upon him in both tendencies; so that, as master of himself, he might constantly encounter good by spontaneous observance of it, and evil by its spontaneous avoidance; because, were man even otherwise circumstanced, it was yet his bounden duty, in the judgment of God, to do justice according to the motions of his will regarded, of course, as free. But the reward neither of good nor of evil could be paid to the man who should be found to have been either good or evil through necessity and not choice. In this really lay the law which did not exclude, but rather prove, human liberty by a spontaneous rendering of obedience, or a spontaneous commission of iniquity; so patent was the liberty of man’s will for either issue.
Since, therefore, both the goodness and purpose of God are discovered in the gift to man of freedom in his will, it is not right, after ignoring the original definition of goodness and purpose which it was necessary to determine previous to any discussion of the subject, on subsequent facts to presume to say that God ought not in such a way to have formed man, because the issue was other than what was assumed to be proper for God. We ought rather, after duly considering that it behooved God so to create man, to leave this consideration unimpaired, and to survey the other aspects of the case. It is, no doubt, an easy process for persons who take offense at the fall of man, before they have looked into the facts of his creation, to impute the blame of what happened to the Creator, without any examination of His purpose. To conclude: the goodness of God, then fully considered from the beginning of His works, will be enough to convince us that nothing evil could possibly have come forth from God; and the liberty of man will, after a second thought, show us that it alone is chargeable with the fault which itself committed.
By such a conclusion all is reserved unimpaired to God; both His natural goodness, and the purposes of His governance and foreknowledge, and the abundance of His power. You ought, however, to deduct from God’s attributes both His supreme earnestness of purpose and most excellent truth in His whole creation, if you would cease to inquire whether anything could have happened against the will of God. For, while holding this earnestness and truth of the good God, which are indeed capable of proof from the rational creation, you will not wonder at the fact that God did not interfere to prevent the occurrence of what He wished not to happen, in order that He might keep from harm what He wished. For, since He had once for all allowed (and, as we have shown, worthily allowed) to man freedom of will and mastery of himself, surely He from His very authority in creation permitted these gifts to be enjoyed: to be enjoyed, too, so far as lay in Himself, according to His own character as God, that is, for good (for who would permit anything hostile to himself?); and, so far as lay in man, according to the impulses of his liberty (for who does not, when giving anything to any one to enjoy, accompany the gift with a permission to enjoy it with all his heart and will?).
The necessary consequence, therefore, was, that God must separate from the liberty which He had once for all bestowed upon man (in other words, keep within Himself), both His foreknowledge and power, through which He might have prevented man’s falling into danger when attempting wrongly to enjoy his liberty. Now, if He had interposed, He would have rescinded the liberty of man’s will, which He had permitted with set purpose, and in goodness. But, suppose God had interposed; suppose Him to have abrogated man’s liberty, by warning him from the tree, and keeping off the subtle serpent from his interview with the woman; would not Marcion then exclaim, What a frivolous, unstable, and faithless Lord, canceling the gifts He had bestowed! Why did He allow any liberty of will, if He afterwards withdrew it? Why withdraw it after allowing it? Let Him choose where to brand Himself with error, either in His original constitution of man, or in His subsequent abrogation thereof! If He had checked (man’s freedom), would He not then seem to have been rather deceived, through want of foresight into the future? But in giving it full scope, who would not say that He did so in ignorance of the issue of things?
God, however, did foreknow that man would make a bad use of his created constitution; and yet what can be so worthy of God as His earnestness of purpose, and the truth of His created works, be they what they may? Man must see, if he failed to make the most of the good gift he had received, how that he was himself guilty in respect of the law which he did not choose to keep, and not that the Lawgiver was committing a fraud against His own law, by not permitting its injunctions to be fulfilled. Whenever you are inclined to indulge in such censure (and it is the most becoming for you) against the Creator, recall gently to your mind in His behalf His earnestness, and endurance, and truth, in having given completeness to His creatures both as rational and good.
For it was not merely that he might live the natural life that God had produced man, but that he should live virtuously, that is, in relation to God and to His law. Accordingly, God gave him to live when he was formed into a living soul; but He charged him to live virtuously when he was required to obey a law. So also God shows that man was not constituted for death, by now wishing that he should be restored to life, preferring the sinner’s repentance to his death. [Ezekiel 18:23.] As, therefore, God designed for man a condition of life, so man brought on himself a state of death; and this, too, neither through infirmity nor through ignorance, so that no blame can be imputed to the Creator. No doubt it was an angel who was the seducer; but then the victim of that seduction was free, and master of himself; and as being the image and likeness of God, was stronger than any angel; and as being, too, the afflatus of the Divine Being, was nobler than that material spirit of which angels were made. Who maketh, says he, His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire. [Hebrews 1:7.]
He would not have made all things subject to man, if he had been too weak for the dominion, and inferior to the angels, to whom He assigned no such subjects; nor would He have put the burden of law upon him, if he had been incapable of sustaining so great a weight; nor, again, would He have threatened with the penalty of death a creature whom He knew to be guiltless on the score of his helplessness: in short, if He had made him infirm, it would not have been by liberty and independence of will, but rather by the withholding from him these endowments. And thus it comes to pass, that even now also, the same human being, the same substance of his soul, the same condition as Adam’s, is made conqueror over the same devil by the selfsame liberty and power of his will, when it moves in obedience to the laws of God.
But, you say, in what way soever the substance of the Creator is found to be susceptible of fault, when the afflatus of God, that is to say, the soul, offends in man, it cannot but be that fault of the portion is referable to the original whole. Now, to meet this objection, we must explain the nature of the soul. We must at the outset hold fast the meaning of the Greek scripture, which has afflatus, not spirit. Some interpreters of the Greek, without reflecting on the difference of the words, and careless about their exact meaning, put spirit for afflatus; they thus afford to heretics an opportunity of tarnishing the Spirit of God, that is to say, God Himself, with default. And now comes the question. Afflatus, observe then, is less than spirit, although it comes from spirit; it is the spirit’s gentle breeze, but it is not the spirit. Now a breeze is rarer than the wind; and although it proceeds from wind, yet a breeze is not the wind.
One may call a breeze the image of the spirit. In the same manner, man is the image of God, that is, of spirit; for God is spirit. Afflatus is therefore the image of the spirit. Now the image is not in any case equal to the very thing. It is one thing to be like the reality, and another thing to be the reality itself. So, although the afflatus is the image of the spirit, it is yet not possible to compare the image of God in such a way, that, because the reality — that is, the spirit, or in other words, the Divine Being — is faultless, therefore the afflatus also, that is to say, the image, ought not by any possibility to have done wrong. In this respect will the image be less than the reality, and the afflatus inferior to the spirit, in that, while it possesses beyond doubt the true lineaments of divinity, such as an immortal soul, freedom and its own mastery over itself, foreknowledge in a great degree, reasonableness, capacity of understanding and knowledge, it is even in these respects an image still, and never amounts to the actual power of Deity, nor to absolute exemption from fault, — a property which is only conceded to God, that is, to the reality, and which is simply incompatible with an image.
An image, although it may express all the lineaments of the reality, is yet wanting in its intrinsic power; it is destitute of motion. In like manner, the soul, the image of the spirit, is unable to express the simple power thereof, that is to say, its happy exemption from sinning. Were it otherwise, it would not be soul, but spirit; not man, who received a soul, but God. Besides, to take another view of the matter, not everything which pertains to God will be regarded as God, so that you would not maintain that His afflatus was God, that is, exempt from fault, because it is the breath of God. And in an act of your own, such as blowing into a flute, you would not thereby make the flute human, although it was your own human breath which you breathed into it, precisely as God breathed of His own Spirit, In fact, the Scripture, by expressly saying that God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life, and that man became thereby a living soul, not a life-giving spirit, has distinguished that soul from the condition of the Creator.
The work must necessarily be distinct from the workman, and it is inferior to him. The pitcher will not be the potter, although made by the potter; nor in like manner, will the afflatus, because made by the spirit, be on that account the spirit. The soul has often been called by the same name as the breath. You should also take care that no descent be made from the breath to a still lower quality. So you have granted (you say) the infirmity of the soul, which you denied before! Undoubtedly, when you demand for it an equality with God, that is, a freedom from fault, I contend that it is infirm. But when the comparison is challenged with an angel, I am compelled to maintain that the head over all things is the stronger of the two, to whom the angels are ministers, who is destined to be the judge of angels, if he shall stand fast in the law of God — an obedience which he refused at first. Now this disobedience it was possible for the afflatus of God to commit: it was possible, but it was not proper. The possibility lay in its slenderness of nature, as being the breath and not the spirit; the impropriety, however, arose from its power of will, as being free, and not a slave. It was furthermore assisted by the warning against committing sin under the threat of incurring death, which was meant to be a support for its slender nature, and a direction for its liberty of choice.
So that the soul can no longer appear to have sinned, because it has an affinity with God, that is to say, through the afflatus, but rather through that which was an addition to its nature, that is, through its free-will, which was indeed given to it by God in accordance with His purpose and reason, but recklessly employed by man according as he chose. This, then, being the case, the entire course of God’s action is purged from all imputation to evil. For the liberty of the will will not retort its own wrong on Him by whom it was bestowed, but on him by whom it was improperly used. What is the evil, then, which you want to impute to the Creator? If it is man’s sin, it will not be God’s fault, because it is man’s doing; nor is that Being to be regarded as the author of the sin, who turns out to be its forbidder, nay, its condemner. If death is the evil, death will not give the reproach of being its own author to Him who threatened it, but to him who despised it. For by his contempt he introduced it, which assuredly would not have appeared had man not despised it.
If, however, you choose to transfer the account of evil from man to the devil as the instigator of sin, and in this way, too, throw the blame on the Creator, inasmuch as He created the devil, — for He maketh those spiritual beings, the angels — then it will follow that what was made, that is to say, the angel, will belong to Him who made it; while that which was not made by God, even the devil, or accuser, cannot but have been made by itself; and this by false detraction from God: first, how that God had forbidden them to eat of every tree; then, with the pretense that they should not die if they ate; thirdly, as if God grudged them the property of divinity. Now, whence originated this malice of lying and deceit towards man, and slandering of God? Most certainly not from God, who made the angel good after the fashion of His good works.
Indeed, before he became the devil, he stands forth the wisest of creatures; and wisdom is no evil. if you turn to the prophecy of Ezekiel, you will at once perceive that this angel was both by creation good and by choice corrupt. For in the person of the prince of Tyre it is said in reference to the devil: “Moreover, the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God: Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, perfect in beauty” (this belongs to him as the highest of the angels, the archangel, the wisest of all); “amidst the delights of the paradise of thy God wast thou born” [Ezekiel 28:12] (for it was there, where God had made the angels in a shape which resembled the figure of animals). “Every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, the topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle; and with gold hast thou filled thy barns and thy treasuries. From the day when thou wast created, when I set thee, a cherub, upon the holy mountain of God, thou wast in the midst of stones of fire, thou wast irreproachable in thy days, from the day of thy creation, until thine iniquities were discovered. By the abundance of thy merchandise thou hast filled thy storehouses, and thou hast sinned,” etc.
This description, it is manifest, properly belongs to the transgression of the angel, and not to the prince’s: for none among human beings was either born in the paradise of God, not even Adam himself, who was rather translated thither; nor placed with a cherub upon God’s holy mountain, that is to say, in the heights of heaven, from which the Lord testifies that Satan fell; nor detained amongst the stones of fire, and the flashing rays of burning constellations, whence Satan was cast down like lightning. No, it is none else than the very author of sin who was denoted in the person of a sinful man: he was once irreproachable, at the time of his creation, formed for good by God, as by the good Creator of irreproachable creatures, and adorned with every angelic glory, and associated with God, good with the Good; but afterwards of his own accord removed to evil.
From the day when thine iniquities, says he, were discovered, — attributing to him those injuries wherewith he injured man when he was expelled from his allegiance to God, — even from that time did he sin, when he propagated his sin, and thereby plied “the abundance of his merchandise,” that is, of his wickedness, even the tale of his transgressions, because he was himself as a spirit no less (than man) created, with the faculty of free-will. For God would in nothing fail to endow a being who was to be next to Himself with a liberty of this kind. Nevertheless, by precondemning him, God testified that he had departed from the condition of his created nature, through his own lusting after the wickedness which was spontaneously conceived within him; and at the same time, by conceding a permission for the operation of his designs, He acted consistently with the purpose of His own goodness, deferring the devil’s destruction for the selfsame reason as He postponed the restitution of man. For He afforded room for a conflict, wherein man might crush his enemy with the same freedom of his will as had made him succumb to him (proving that the fault was all his own, not God’s), and so worthily recover his salvation by a victory; wherein also the devil might receive a more bitter punishment, through being vanquished by him whom he had previously injured; and wherein God might be discovered to be so much the more good, as waiting for man to return from his present life to a more glorious paradise, with a right to pluck of the tree of life.
Up to the fall of man, therefore, from the beginning God was simply good; after that He became a judge both severe and, as the Marcionites will have it, cruel. Woman is at once condemned to bring forth in sorrow, and to serve her husband, although before she had heard without pain the increase of her race proclaimed with the blessing, Increase and multiply, and although she had been destined to be a help and not a slave to her male partner. Immediately the earth is also cursed, which before was blessed. Immediately spring up briers and thorns, where once had grown grass, and herbs, and fruitful trees. Immediately arise sweat and labor for bread, where previously on every tree was yielded spontaneous food and untilled nourishment. Thenceforth it is “man to the ground,” and not as before, “from the ground; to death thenceforth, but before, to life; thenceforth with coats of skins, but before, nakedness without a blush.
Thus God’s prior goodness was from nature, His subsequent severity from a cause. The one was innate, the other accidental; the one His own, the other adapted; the one issuing from Him, the other admitted by Him. But then nature could not have rightly permitted His goodness to have gone on inoperative, nor the cause have allowed His severity to have escaped in disguise or concealment. God provided the one for Himself, the other for the occasion. You should now set about showing also that the position of a judge is allied with evil, who have been dreaming of another God as a purely good one — solely because you cannot understand the Deity to be a judge; although we have proved God to be also a judge. Or if not a judge, at any rate a perverse and useless originator of a discipline which is not to be vindicated — in other words, not to be judged.
You do not, however, disprove God’s being a judge, who have no proof to show that He is a judge. You will undoubtedly have to accuse justice herself, which provides the judge, or else to reckon her among the species of evil, that is, to add injustice to the titles of goodness. But then justice is an evil, if injustice is a good. And yet you are forced to declare injustice to be one of the worst of things, and by the same rule are constrained to class justice amongst the most excellent. Since there is nothing hostile to evil which is not good, and no enemy of good which is not evil. It follows, then, that as injustice is an evil, so in the same degree is justice a good. Nor should it be regarded as simply a species of goodness, but as the practical observance of it, because goodness (unless justice be so controlled as to be just) will not be goodness, if it be unjust. For nothing is good which is unjust; while everything, on the other hand, which is just is good.
Since, therefore, there is this union and agreement between goodness and justice, you cannot prescribe their separation. With what face will you determine the separation of your two Gods, regarding in their separate condition one as distinctively the good God, and the other as distinctively the just God? Where the just is, there also exists the good. in short, from the very first the Creator was both good and also just. And both His attributes advanced together. His goodness created, His justice arranged, the world; and in this process it even then decreed that the world should be formed of good materials, because it took counsel with goodness.
The work of justice is apparent, in the separation which was pronounced between light and darkness, between day and night, between heaven and earth, between the water above and the water beneath, between the gathering together of the sea and the mass of the dry land, between the greater lights and the lesser, between the luminaries of the day and those of the night, between male and female, between the tree of knowledge of death and of life, between the world and paradise, between the aqueous and the earth-born animals. As goodness conceived all things, so did justice discriminate them. With the determination of the latter, everything was arranged and set in order. Every site and quality of the elements, their effect, motion, and state, the rise and setting of each, are the judicial determinations of the Creator. Do not suppose that His function as a judge must be defined as beginning when evil began, and so tarnish His justice with the cause of evil. By such considerations, then, do we show that this attribute advanced in company with goodness, the author of all things, — worthy of being herself, too, deemed innate and natural, and not as accidentally accruing to God, inasmuch as she was found to be in Him, her Lord, the arbiter of His works.
But yet, when evil afterwards broke out, and the goodness of God began now to have an adversary to contend against, God’s justice also acquired another function, even that of directing His goodness according to men’s application for it. And this is the result: the divine goodness, being interrupted in that free course whereby God was spontaneously good, is now dispensed according to the deserts of every man; it is offered to the worthy, denied to the unworthy, taken away from the unthankful, and also avenged on all its enemies. Thus the entire office of justice in this respect becomes an agency for goodness: whatever it condemns by its judgment, whatever it chastises by its condemnation, whatever (to use your phrase) it ruthlessly pursues, it, in fact, benefits with good instead of injuring.
Indeed, the fear of judgment contributes to good, not to evil. For good, now contending with an enemy, was not strong enough to recommend itself by itself alone. At all events, if it could do so much, it could not keep its ground; for it had lost its impregnability through the foe, unless some power of fear supervened, such as might compel the very unwilling to seek after good, and take care of it. But who, when so many incentives to evil were assailing him, would desire that good, which he could despise with impunity? Who, again, would take care of what he could lose without danger? You read how broad is the road to evil, how thronged in comparison with the opposite: would not all glide down that road were there nothing in it to fear? We dread the Creator’s tremendous threats, and yet scarcely turn away from evil. What, if He threatened not? Will you call this justice an evil, when it is all unfavorable to evil? Will you deny it to be a good, when it has its eye towards good?
What sort of being ought you to wish God to be? Would it be right to prefer that He should be such, that sins might flourish under Him, and the devil make mock at Him? Would you suppose Him to be a good God, who should be able to make a man worse by security in sin? Who is the author of good, but He who also requires it? In like manner who is a stranger to evil, except Him who is its enemy? Who its enemy, besides Him who is its conqueror? Who else its conqueror, than He who is its punisher? Thus God is wholly good, because in all things He is on the side of good. In fact, He is omnipotent, because able both to help and to hurt. Merely to profit is a comparatively small matter, because it can do nothing else than a good turn. From such a conduct with what confidence can I hope for good, if this is its only ability? How can I follow after the reward of innocence, if I have no regard to the requital of wrong-doing? I must needs have my doubts whether he might not fail in recompensing one or other alternative, who was unequal in his resources to meet both.
Thus far, then, justice is the very fullness of the Deity Himself, manifesting God as both a perfect father and a perfect master: a father in His mercy, a master in His discipline; a father in the mildness of His power, a master in its severity; a father who must be loved with dutiful affection, a master who must needs be feared; be loved, because He prefers mercy to sacrifice; be feared because He dislikes sin; be loved, because He prefers the sinner’s repentance to his death; be feared, because He dislikes the sinners who do not repent. Accordingly, the divine law enjoins duties in respect of both these attributes: Thou shalt love God, and, Thou shalt fear God. It proposed one for the obedient man, the other for the transgressor.
On all occasions does God meet you: it is He who smites, but also heals; who kills, but also makes alive; who humbles, and yet exalts; who “creates evil,” but also “makes peace;” — so that from these very (contrasts of His providence) I may get an answer to the heretics. Behold, they say, how He acknowledges Himself to be the creator of evil in the passage, “It is I who create evil.” [Isaiah 45:7.] They take a word whose one form reduces to confusion and ambiguity two kinds of evils (because both sins and punishments are called evils), and will have Him in every passage to be understood as the creator of all evil things, in order that He may be designated the author of evil. We, on the contrary, distinguish between the two meanings of the word in question, and, by separating evils of sin from penal evils, mala culpae from mala poenae, confine to each of the two classes its own author, — the devil as the author of the sinful evils (culpae), and God as the creator of penal evils (poenae); so that the one class shall be accounted as morally bad, and the other be classed as the operations of justice passing penal sentences against the evils of sin.
Of the latter class of evils which are compatible with justice, God is therefore avowedly the creator. They are, no doubt, evil to those by whom they are endured, but still on their own account good, as being just and defensive of good and hostile to sin. In this respect they are, moreover, worthy of God. Else prove them to be unjust, in order to show them deserving of a place in the sinful class, that is to say, evils of injustice; because if they turn out to belong to justice, they will be no longer evil things, but good — evil only to the bad, by whom even directly good things are condemned as evil. In this case, you must decide that man, although the willful contemner of the divine law, unjustly bore the doom which he would like to have escaped; that the wickedness of those days was unjustly smitten by the deluge, afterwards by the fire (of Sodom); that Egypt, although most depraved and superstitious, and, worse still, the harasser of its guest-population, was unjustly stricken with the chastisement of its ten plagues.
God hardens the heart of Pharaoh. He deserved, however, to be influenced to his destruction, who had already denied God, already in his pride so often rejected His ambassadors, accumulated heavy burdens on His people, and (to sum up all) as an Egyptian, had long been guilty before God of Gentile idolatry, worshipping the ibis and the crocodile in preference to the living God. Even His own people did God visit in their ingratitude. Against young lads, too, did He send forth bears, for their irreverence to the prophet.
Consider well, then, before all things the justice of the Judge; and if its purpose be clear, then the severity thereof, and the operations of the severity in its course, will appear compatible with reason and justice. Now, that we may not linger too long on the point, (I would challenge you to) assert the other reasons also, that you may condemn the Judge’s sentences; extenuate the delinquencies of the sinner, that you may blame his judicial conviction. Never mind censuring the Judge; rather prove Him to be an unjust one. Well, then, even though He required the sins of the fathers at the hands of the children, the hardness of the people made such remedial measures necessary for them, in order that, having their posterity in view, they might obey the divine law. For who is there that feels not a greater care for his children than for himself?
Again, if the blessing of the fathers was destined likewise for their offspring, previous to any merit on the part of these, why might not the guilt of the fathers also redound to their children? As was the grace, so was the offense; so that the grace and the offense equally ran down through the whole race, with the reservation, indeed, of that subsequent ordinance by which it became possible to refrain from saying, that “the fathers had eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth were set on edge:” [Jeremiah 31:29, Ezekiel 18:2] in other words, that the father should not bear the iniquity of the son, nor the son the iniquity of the father, but that every man should be chargeable with his own sin; so that the harshness of the law having been reduced after the hardness of the people, justice was no longer to judge the race, but individuals. If, however, you accept the gospel of truth, you will discover on whom recoils the sentence of the Judge, when requiting on sons the sins of their fathers, even on those who had been (hardened enough) to imprecate spontaneously on themselves this condemnation: “His blood be on us, and on our children.” This, therefore, the providence of God has ordered throughout its course, even as it had heard it.
Even His severity then is good, because just: when the judge is good, that is just. Other qualities likewise are good, by means of which the good work of a good severity runs out its course, whether wrath, or jealousy, or sternness. For all these are as indispensable to severity as severity is to justice. The shamelessness of an age, which ought to have been reverent, had to be avenged. Accordingly, qualities which pertain to the judge, when they are actually free from blame, as the judge himself is, will never be able to be charged upon him as a fault. What would be said, if, when you thought the doctor necessary, you were to find fault with his instruments, because they cut, or cauterize, or amputate, or tighten; whereas there could be no doctor of any value without his professional tools? Censure, if you please, the practitioner who cuts badly, amputates clumsily, is rash in his cautery; and even blame his implements as rough tools of his art.
Your conduct is equally unreasonable, when you allow indeed that God is a judge, but at the same time destroy those operations and dispositions by which He discharges His judicial functions. We are taught God by the prophets, and by Christ, not by the philosophers nor by Epicurus. We who believe that God really lived on earth, and took upon Him the low estate of human form, for the purpose of man’s salvation, are very far from thinking as those do who refuse to believe that God cares for anything. Whence has found its way to the heretics an argument of this kind: If God is angry, and jealous, and roused, and grieved, He must therefore be corrupted, and must therefore die.
Fortunately, however, it is a part of the creed of Christians even to believe that God did die, and yet that He is alive for evermore. Superlative is their folly, who prejudge divine things from human; so that, because in man’s corrupt condition there are found passions of this description, therefore there must be deemed to exist in God also sensations of the same kind. Discriminate between the natures, and assign to them their respective senses, which are as diverse as their natures require, although they seem to have a community of designations.
We read, indeed, of God’s right hand, and eyes, and feet: these must not, however, be compared with those of human beings, because they are associated in one and the same name. Now, as great as shall be the difference between the divine and the human body, although their members pass under identical names, so great will also be the diversity between the divine and the human soul, notwithstanding that their sensations are designated by the same names. These sensations in the human being are rendered just as corrupt by the corruptibility of man’s substance, as in God they are rendered incorruptible by the incorruption of the divine essence. Do you really believe the Creator to be God? By all means, is your reply. How then do you suppose that in God there is anything human, and not that all is divine? Him whom you do not deny to be God, you confess to be not human; because, when you confess Him to be God, you have, in fact, already determined that He is undoubtedly diverse from every sort of human conditions.
Furthermore, although you allow, with others, that man was inbreathed by God into a living soul, not God by man, it is yet palpably absurd of you to be placing human characteristics in God rather than divine ones in man, and clothing God in the likeness of man, instead of man in the image of God. And this, therefore, is to be deemed the likeness of God in man, that the human soul have the same emotions and sensations as God, although they are not of the same kind; differing as they do both in their conditions and their issues according to their nature. Then, again, with respect to the opposite sensations, — I mean meekness, patience, mercy, and the very parent of them all, goodness, — why do you form your opinion of the divine displays of these (from the human qualities)? For we indeed do not possess them in perfection, because it is God alone who is perfect. So also in regard to those others, — namely, anger and irritation. we are not affected by them in so happy a manner, because God alone is truly happy, by reason of His property of incorruptibility.
Angry He will possibly be, but not irritated, nor dangerously tempted; He will be moved, but not subverted. All appliances He must needs use, because of all contingencies; as many sensations as there are causes: anger because of the wicked, and indignation because of the ungrateful, and jealousy because of the proud, and whatsoever else is a hindrance to the evil. So, again, mercy on account of the erring, and patience on account of the impenitent, and pre-eminent resources on account of the meritorious, and whatsoever is necessary to the good. All these affections He is moved by in that peculiar manner of His own, in which it is profoundly fit that He should be affected; and it is owing to Him that man is also similarly affected in a way which is equally his own.
These considerations show that the entire order of God as Judge is an operative one, and (that I may express myself in worthier words) protective of His Catholic and supreme goodness, which, removed as it is from judiciary emotions, and pure in its own condition, the Marcionites refuse to acknowledge to be in one and the same Deity, “raining on the just and on the unjust, and making His sun to rise on the evil and on the good,” [Matthew 5:45] — a bounty which no other God at all exercises. It is true that Marcion has been bold enough to erase from the gospel this testimony of Christ to the Creator; but yet the world itself is inscribed with the goodness of its Maker, and the inscription is read by each man’s conscience. Nay, this very long-suffering of the Creator will tend to the condemnation of Marcion; that patience, (I mean,) which waits for the sinner’s repentance rather than his death, which prefers mercy to sacrifice, averting from the Ninevites the ruin which had been already denounced against them, and vouchsafing to Hezekiah’s tears an extension of his life, and restoring his kingly state to the monarch of Babylon after his complete repentance; that mercy, too, which conceded to the devotion of the people the son of Saul when about to die, and gave free forgiveness to David on his confessing his sins against the house of Uriah; which also restored the house of Israel as often as it condemned it, and addressed to it consolation no less frequently than reproof.
Do not therefore look at God simply as Judge, but turn your attention also to examples of His conduct as the Most Good. Noting Him, as you do, when He takes vengeance, consider Him likewise when He shows mercy. In the scale, against His severity place His gentleness. When you shall have discovered both qualities to co-exist in the Creator, you will find in Him that very circumstance which induces you to think there is another God. Lastly, come and examine into His doctrine, discipline, precepts, and counsels. You will perhaps say that there are equally good prescriptions in human laws. But Moses and God existed before all your Lycurguses and Solons. There is not one after-age which does not take from primitive sources.
At any rate, my Creator did not learn from your God to issue such commandments as: Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness; thou shalt not covet what is thy neighbor’s; honor thy father and thy mother; and, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. [Exodus 20, Leviticus 19:18.] To these prime counsels of innocence, chastity, and justice, and piety, are also added prescriptions of humanity, as when every seventh year slaves are released for liberty; when at the same period the land is spared from tillage; a place is also granted to the needy; and from the treading ox’s mouth the muzzle is removed, for the enjoyment of the fruit of his labor before him, in order that kindness first shown in the case of animals might be raised from such rudiments to the refreshment of men.
But what parts of the law can I defend as good with a greater confidence than those which heresy has shown such a longing for? — as the statute of retaliation, requiring eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and stripe for stripe. Now there is not here any smack of a permission to mutual injury; but rather, on the whole, a provision for restraining violence. To a people which was very obdurate, and wanting in faith towards God, it might seem tedious, and even incredible, to expect from God that vengeance which was subsequently to be declared by the prophet: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” [Romans 12:19; Deuteronomy 32:35.] Therefore, in the meanwhile, the commission of wrong was to be checked by the fear of a retribution immediately to happen; and so the permission of this retribution was to be the prohibition of provocation, that a stop might thus be put to all hot-blooded injury, whilst by the permission of the second the first is prevented by fear, and by this deterring of the first the second fails to be committed. By the same law another result is also obtained, even the more ready kindling of the fear of retaliation by reason of the very savor of passion which is in it. There is no more bitter thing, than to endure the very suffering which you have inflicted upon others.
When, again, the law took somewhat away from men’s food, by pronouncing unclean certain animals which were once blessed, you should understand this to be a measure for encouraging continence, and recognize in it a bridle imposed on that appetite which, while eating angels’ food, craved after the cucumbers and melons of the Egyptians. Recognize also therein a precaution against those companions of the appetite, even lust and luxury, which are usually chilled by the chastening of the appetite. For “the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.” Furthermore, that an eager wish for money might be restrained, so far as it is caused by the need of food, the desire for costly meat and drink was taken out of their power. Lastly, in order that man might be more readily educated by God for fasting, he was accustomed to such articles of food as were neither plentiful nor sumptuous, and not likely to pamper the appetite of the luxurious.
Of course the Creator deserved all the greater blame, because it was from His own people that He took away food, rather than from the more ungrateful Marcionites. As for the burdensome sacrifices also, and the troublesome scrupulousness of their ceremonies and oblations, no one should blame them, as if God specially required them for Himself: for He plainly asks, “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?” and, “Who hath required them at your hand?” [Isaiah 1:12.] But he should see herein a careful provision on God’s part, which showed His wish to bind to His own religion a people who were prone to idolatry and transgression by that kind of services wherein consisted the superstition of that period; that He might call them away therefrom, while requesting it to be performed to Himself, as if He desired that no sin should be committed in making idols.
But even in the common transactions of life, and of human intercourse at home and in public, even to the care of the smallest vessels, He in every possible manner made distinct arrangement; in order that, when they everywhere encountered these legal instructions, they might not be at any moment out of the sight of God. For what could better tend to make a man happy, than having “his delight in the law of the Lord?” “In that law would he meditate day and night.” [Psalm 1:2.] It was not in severity that its Author promulgated this law, but in the interest of the highest benevolence, which rather aimed at subduing the nation’s hardness of heart, and by laborious services hewing out a fealty which was (as yet) untried in obedience: for I purposely abstain from touching on the mysterious senses of the law, considered in its spiritual and prophetic relation, and as abounding in types of almost every variety and sort. It is enough at present, that it simply bound a man to God, so that no one ought to find fault with it, except him who does not choose to serve God.
To help forward this beneficent, not onerous, purpose of the law, the prophets were also ordained by the selfsame goodness of God, teaching precepts worthy of God, how that men should “cease to do evil, learn to do well, seek judgment, judge the fatherless, and plead for the widow:” [Isaiah 1:17] be fond of the divine expostulations: avoid contact with the wicked: “let the oppressed go free:” dismiss the unjust sentence. “deal their bread to the hungry; bring the outcast into their house; cover the naked, when they see him; nor hide themselves from their own flesh and kin:” [Isaiah 58:7] “keep their tongue from evil, and their lips from speaking guile: depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it:” be angry, and sin not; that is, not persevere in anger, or be enraged: “walk not in the counsel of the ungodly; nor stand in the way of sinners; nor sit in the seat of the scornful.” [Psalm 1:1.]
Where then? “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity;” [Psalm 133:1] meditating (as they do) day and night in the law of the Lord, because “it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man; better to hope in the Lord than in man.” [Psalm 118:8.] For what recompense shall man receive from God? “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” [Psalm 1:3.] “He that hath clean hands and a pure heart, who hath not taken God’s name in vain, nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbor, he shall receive blessing from the Lord, and mercy from the God of his salvation.” [Psalm 24:4-5.]
“For the eyes of the Lord are upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in His mercy, to deliver their souls from death,” even eternal death, “and to nourish them in their hunger,” that is, after eternal life. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth them out of them all.” [Psalm 34:19.] “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” [Psalm 116:15.] “The Lord keepeth all their bones; not one of them shall be broken.” [Psalm 34:20.] The Lord will redeem the souls of His servants. We have adduced these few quotations from a mass of the Creator’s Scriptures; and no more, I suppose, are wanted to prove Him to be a most good God, for they sufficiently indicate both the precepts of His goodness and the first-fruits thereof.
But these “saucy cuttles” (of heretics) under the figure of whom the law about things to be eaten prohibited this very kind of piscatory aliment, as soon as they find themselves confuted, eject the black venom of their blasphemy, and so spread about in all directions the object which (as is now plain) they severally have in view, when they put forth such assertions and protestations as shall obscure and tarnish the rekindled light of the Creator’s bounty. We will, however, follow their wicked design, even through these black clouds, and drag to light their tricks of dark calumny, laying to the Creator’s charge with especial emphasis the fraud and theft of gold and silver which the Hebrews were commanded by Him to practice against the Egyptians. [Exodus 3:22.]
Come, unhappy heretic, I cite even you as a witness; first look at the case of the two nations, and then you will form a judgment of the Author of the command. The Egyptians put in a claim on the Hebrews for these gold and silver vessels. The Hebrews assert a counter claim, alleging that by the bond of their respective fathers, attested by the written engagement of both parties, there were due to them the arrears of that laborious slavery of theirs, for the bricks they had so painfully made, and the cities and palaces which they had built. What shall be your verdict, you discoverer of the most good God? That the Hebrews must admit the fraud, or the Egyptians the compensation? For they maintain that thus has the question been settled by the advocates on both sides, of the Egyptians demanding their vessels, and the Hebrews claiming the requital of their labors. But for all they say, the Egyptians justly renounced their restitution-claim then and there; while the Hebrews to this day, in spite of the Marcionites, re-assert their demand for even greater damages, insisting that, however large was their loan of the gold and silver, it would not be compensation enough, even if the labor of six hundred thousand men should be valued at only “a farthing” a day a piece.
Which, however, were the more in number — those who claimed the vessel, or those who dwelt in the palaces and cities? Which, too, the greater — the grievance of the Egyptians against the Hebrews, or “the favor” which they displayed towards them? Were free men reduced to servile labor, in order that the Hebrews might simply proceed against the Egyptians by action at law for injuries; or in order that their officers might on their benches sit and exhibit their backs and shoulders shamefully mangled by the fierce application of the scourge? It was not by a few plates and cup — in all cases the property, no doubt, of still fewer rich men — that any one would pronounce that compensation should have been awarded to the Hebrews, but both by all the resources of these and by the contributions of all the people. If, therefore, the case of the Hebrews be a good one, the Creator’s case must likewise be a good one; that is to say, his command, when He both made the Egyptians unconsciously grateful, and also gave His own people their discharge in full at the time of their migration by the scanty comfort of a tacit requital of their long servitude. It was plainly less than their due which He commanded to be exacted. The Egyptians ought to have given back their men-children also to the Hebrews.
Similarly on other points also, you reproach Him with fickleness and instability for contradictions in His commandments, such as that He forbade work to be done on Sabbath-days, and yet at the siege of Jericho ordered the ark to be carried round the walls during eight days; in other words, of course, actually on a Sabbath. You do not, however, consider the law of the Sabbath: they are human works, not divine, which it prohibits. For it says, “Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work.” [Exodus 20:9-10.] What work? Of course your own. The conclusion is, that from the Sabbath-day He removes those works which He had before enjoined for the six days, that is, your own works; in other words, human works of daily life.
Now, the carrying around of the ark is evidently not an ordinary daily duty, nor yet a human one; but a rare and a sacred work, and, as being then ordered by the direct precept of God, a divine one. And I might fully explain what this signified, were it not a tedious process to open out the forms of all the Creator’s proofs, which you would, moreover, probably refuse to allow. It is more to the point, if you be confuted on plain matters by the simplicity of truth rather than curious reasoning. Thus, in the present instance, there is a clear distinction respecting the Sabbath’s prohibition of human labors, not divine ones. Accordingly, the man who went and gathered sticks on the Sabbath-day was punished with death. For it was his own work which he did; and this the law forbade. They, however, who on the Sabbath carried the ark round Jericho, did it with impunity. For it was not their own work, but God’s, which they executed, and that too, from His express commandment.
Likewise, when forbidding the similitude to be made of all things which are in heaven, and in earth, and in the waters, He declared also the reasons, as being prohibitory of all material exhibition of a latent idolatry. For He adds: “Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor serve them.” [Exodus 20:5.] The form, however, of the brazen serpent which the Lord afterwards commanded Moses to make, afforded no pretext for idolatry, but was meant for the cure of those who were plagued with the fiery serpents. I say nothing of what was figured by this cure. Thus, too, the golden Cherubim and Seraphim were purely an ornament in the figured fashion of the ark; adapted to ornamentation for reasons totally remote from all condition of idolatry, on account of which the making a likeness is prohibited; and they are evidently not at variance with this law of prohibition, because they are not found in that form of similitude, in reference to which the prohibition is given.
We have spoken of the rational institution of the sacrifices, as calling off their homage from idols to God; and if He afterwards rejected this homage, saying, “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?” [Isaiah 1:11] — He meant nothing else than this to be understood, that He had never really required such homage for Himself. For He says, “I will not eat the flesh of bulls;” [Psalm 50:13] and in another passage: “The everlasting God shall neither hunger nor thirst.” Although He had respect to the offerings of Abel, and smelled a sweet savor from the holocaust of Noah, yet what pleasure could He receive from the flesh of sheep, or the odor of burning victims? And yet the simple and God-fearing mind of those who offered what they were receiving from God, both in the way of food and of a sweet smell, was favorably accepted before God, in the sense of respectful homage to God, who did not so much want what was offered, as that which prompted the offering.
Suppose now, that some dependent were to offer to a rich man or a king, who was in want of nothing, some very insignificant gift, will the amount and quality of the gift bring dishonor to the rich man and the king; or will the consideration of the homage give them pleasure? Were, however, the dependent, either of his own accord or even in compliance with a command, to present to him gifts suitably to his rank, and were he to observe the solemnities due to a king, only without faith and purity of heart, and without any readiness for other acts of obedience, will not that king or rich man consequently exclaim: “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? I am full of your solemnities, your feast-days, and your Sabbaths.” [Isaiah 1:11.] By calling them yours, as having been performed after the giver’s own will, and not according to the religion of God (since he displayed them as his own, and not as God’s), the Almighty in this passage, demonstrated how suitable to the conditions of the case, and how reasonable, was His rejection of those very offerings which He had commanded to be made to Him.
Now, although you will have it that He is inconstant in respect of persons, sometimes disapproving where approbation is deserved; or else wanting in foresight, bestowing approbation on men who ought rather to be reprobated, as if He either censured His own past judgments, or could not forecast His future ones; yet nothing is so consistent for even a good judge as both to reject and to choose on the merits of the present moment. Saul is chosen, but he is not yet the despiser of the prophet Samuel. Solomon is rejected; but he is now become a prey to foreign women, and a slave to the idols of Moab and Sidon. What must the Creator do, in order to escape the censure of the Marcionites? Must He prematurely condemn men, who are thus far correct in their conduct, because of future delinquencies?
But it is not the mark of a good God to condemn beforehand persons who have not yet deserved condemnation. Must He then refuse to eject sinners, on account of their previous good deeds? But it is not the characteristic of a just judge to forgive sins in consideration of former virtues which are no longer practiced. Now, who is so faultless among men, that God could always have him in His choice, and never be able to reject him? Or who, on the other hand, is so void of any good work, that God could reject him for ever, and never be able to choose him? Show me, then, the man who is always good, and he will not be rejected; show me, too, him who is always evil, and he will never be chosen. Should, however, the same man, being found on different occasions in the pursuit of both (good and evil) be recompensed in both directions by God, who is both a good and judicial Being, He does not change His judgments through inconstancy or want of foresight, but dispenses reward according to the deserts of each case with a most unwavering and provident decision.
Furthermore, with respect to the repentance which occurs in His conduct, you interpret it with similar perverseness just as if it were with fickleness and improvidence that He repented, or on the recollection of some wrong-doing; because He actually said, “It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king,” [1 Samuel 15:11] very much as if He meant that His repentance savored of an acknowledgment of some evil work or error. Well, this is not always implied. For there occurs even in good works a confession of repentance, as a reproach and condemnation of the man who has proved himself unthankful for a benefit. For instance, in this case of Saul, the Creator, who had made no mistake in selecting him for the kingdom, and endowing him with His Holy Spirit, makes a statement respecting the goodliness of his person, how that He had most fitly chosen him as being at that moment the choicest man, so that (as He says) there was not his fellow among the children of Israel. Neither was He ignorant how he would afterwards turn out. For no one would bear you out in imputing lack of foresight to that God whom, since you do not deny Him to be divine, you allow to be also foreseeing; for this proper attribute of divinity exists in Him.
However, He did, as I have said, burden the guilt of Saul with the confession of His own repentance; but as there is an absence of all error and wrong in His choice of Saul, it follows that this repentance is to be understood as upbraiding another rather than as self-incriminating. Look here then, say you: I discover a self-incriminating case in the matter of the Ninevites, when the book of Jonah declares, “And God repented of the evil that He had said that He would do unto them; and He did it not.” [Jonah 3:10.] In accordance with which Jonah himself says unto the Lord, “Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish; for I knew that Thou art a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest Thee of the evil.” [Jonah 4:2.] It is well, therefore, that he premised the attribute of the most good God as most patient over the wicked, and most abundant in mercy and kindness over such as acknowledged and bewailed their sins, as the Ninevites were then doing.
For if He who has this attribute is the Most Good, you will have first to relinquish that position of yours, that the very contact with evil is incompatible with such a Being, that is, with the most good God. And because Marcion, too, maintains that a good tree ought not to produce bad fruit; but yet he has mentioned “evil” (in the passage under discussion), which the most good God is incapable of, is there forthcoming any explanation of these “evils,” which may render them compatible with even the most Good? There is. We say, in short, that evil in the present case means, not what may be attributed to the Creator’s nature as an evil being, but what may be attributed to His power as a judge. In accordance with which He declared, “I create evil,” [Isaiah 45:7] and, “I frame evil against you;” [Jeremiah 18:11] meaning not to sinful evils, but avenging ones. What sort of stigmas pertains to these, congruous as they are with God’s judicial character, we have sufficiently explained. Now although these are called “evils,” they are yet not reprehensible in a judge; nor because of this their name do they show that the judge is evil: so in like manner will this particular evil be understood to be one of this class of judiciary evils, and along with them to be compatible with (God as) a judge. The Greeks also sometimes use the word “evils” for troubles and injuries (not malignant ones), as in this passage of yours is also meant.
Therefore, if the Creator repented of such evil as this, as showing that the creature deserved condemnation, and ought to be punished for his sin, then, in the present instance no fault of a criminating nature will be imputed to the Creator, for having deservedly and worthily decreed the destruction of a city so full of iniquity. What therefore He had justly decreed, having no evil purpose in His decree, He decreed from the principle of justice, not from malevolence. Yet He gave it the name of “evil,” because of the evil and desert involved in the very suffering itself. Then, you will say, if you excuse the evil under name of justice, on the ground that He had justly determined destruction against the people of Nineveh, He must even on this argument be blameworthy, for having repented of an act of justice, which surely should not be repented of. Certainly not, my reply is; God will never repent of an act of justice. And it now remains that we should understand what God’s repentance means. For although man repents most frequently on the recollection of a sin, and occasionally even from the unpleasantness of some good action, this is never the case with God.
For, inasmuch as God neither commits sin nor condemns a good action, in so far is there no room in Him for repentance of either a good or an evil deed. Now this point is determined for you even in the scripture which we have quoted. Samuel says to Saul, “The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbor of thine that is better than thou;” [1 Samuel 15:28] and into two parts shall Israel be divided: “for He will not turn Himself, nor repent; for He does not repent as a man does.” [1 Samuel 15:29.] According, therefore, to this definition, the divine repentance takes in all cases a different form from that of man, in that it is never regarded as the result of improvidence or of fickleness, or of any condemnation of a good or an evil work. What, then, will be the mode of God’s repentance? It is already quite clear, if you avoid referring it to human conditions. For it will have no other meaning than a simple change of a prior purpose; and this is admissible without any blame even in a man, much more in God, whose every purpose is faultless. Now in Greek the word for repentance (metanoia) is formed, not from the confession of a sin, but from a change of mind, which in God we have shown to be regulated by the occurrence of varying circumstances.
It is now high time that I should, in order to meet all objections of this kind, proceed to the explanation and clearing up of the other trifles, weak points, and inconsistencies, as you deemed them. God calls out to Adam, Where art thou? as if ignorant where he was; and when he alleged that the shame of his nakedness was the cause (of his hiding himself), He inquired whether he had eaten of the tree, as if He were in doubt. By no means; God was neither uncertain about the commission of the sin, nor ignorant of Adam’s whereabouts. It was certainly proper to summon the offender, who was concealing himself from the consciousness of his sin, and to bring him forth into the presence of his Lord, not merely by the calling out of his name, but with a home-thrust blow at the sin which he had at that moment committed. For the question ought not to be read in a merely interrogative tone, Where art thou, Adam? but with an impressive and earnest voice, and with an air of imputation, Oh, Adam, where art thou? — as much as to intimate: thou art no longer here, thou art in perdition — so that the voice is the utterance of One who is at once rebuking and sorrowing.
But of course some part of paradise had escaped the eye of Him who holds the universe in His hand as if it were a bird’s nest, and to whom heaven is a throne and earth a footstool; so that He could not see, before He summoned him forth, where Adam was, both while lurking and when eating of the forbidden fruit! The wolf or the paltry thief escapes not the notice of the keeper of your vineyard or your garden! And God, I suppose, with His keener vision, from on high was unable to miss the sight of aught which lay beneath Him! Foolish heretic, who treat with scorn so fine an argument of God’s greatness and man’s instruction! God put the question with an appearance of uncertainty, in order that even here He might prove man to be the subject of a free will in the alternative of either a denial or a confession, and give to him the opportunity of freely acknowledging his transgression, and, so far, of lightening it.
In like manner He inquires of Cain where his brother was, just as if He had not yet heard the blood of Abel crying from the ground, in order that he too might have the opportunity from the same power of the will of spontaneously denying, and to this degree aggravating, his crime; and that thus there might be supplied to us examples of confessing sins rather than of denying them: so that even then was initiated the evangelic doctrine, “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” [Matthew 12:37.] Now, although Adam was by reason of his condition under law subject to death, yet was hope preserved to him by the Lord’s saying, “Behold, Adam is become as one of us;” [Genesis 3:22] that is, in consequence of the future taking of the man into the divine nature. Then what follows? “And now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, (and eat), and live for ever.” Inserting thus the particle of present time, “And now,” He shows that He had made for a time, and at present, a prolongation of man’s life. Therefore He did not actually curse Adam and Eve, for they were candidates for restoration, and they had been relieved by confession.
Cain, however, He not only cursed; but when he wished to atone for his sin by death, He even prohibited his dying, so that he had to bear the load of this prohibition in addition to his crime. This, then, will prove to be the ignorance of our God, which was simulated on this account, that delinquent man should not be unaware of what he ought to do. Coming down to the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, he says: “I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.” [Genesis 18:21.] Well, was He in this instance also uncertain through ignorance, and desiring to know? Or was this a necessary tone of utterance, as expressive of a minatory and not a dubious sense, under the color of an inquiry? If you make merry at God’s “going down,” as if He could not except by the descent have accomplished His judgment, take care that you do not strike your own God with as hard a blow. For He also came down to accomplish what He wished.
But God also swears. Well, is it, I wonder, by the God of Marcion? No, no, he says; a much vainer oath — by Himself! What was He to do, when He knew of no other God; especially when He was swearing to this very point, that besides himself there was absolutely no God? Is it then of swearing falsely that you convict Him, or of swearing a vain oath? But it is not possible for him to appear to have sworn falsely, when he was ignorant, as you say he was, that there was another God. For when he swore by that which he knew, he really committed no perjury. But it was not a vain oath for him to swear that there was no other God. It would indeed be a vain oath, if there had been no persons who believed that there were other Gods, like the worshippers of idols then, and the heretics of the present day.
Therefore He swears by Himself, in order that you may believe God, even when He swears that there is besides Himself no other God at all. But you have yourself, O Marcion, compelled God to do this. For even so early as then were you foreseen. Hence, if He swears both in His promises and His threatenings, and thus extorts faith which at first was difficult, nothing is unworthy of God which causes men to believe in God. But (you say) God was even then mean enough in His very fierceness, when, in His wrath against the people for their consecration of the calf, He makes this request of His servant Moses: “Let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of thee a great nation.” [Exodus 32:10.] Accordingly, you maintain that Moses is better than his God, as the deprecator, nay the averter, of His anger. “For,” said he, “Thou shalt not do this; or else destroy me along with them.”
Pitiable are ye also, as well as the people, since you know not Christ, prefigured in the person of Moses as the deprecator of the Father, and the offerer of His own life for the salvation of the people. It is enough, however, that the nation was at the instant really given to Moses. That which he, as a servant, was able to ask of the Lord, the Lord required of Himself. For this purpose did He say to His servant, “Let me alone, that I may consume them,” in order that by his entreaty, and by offering himself, he might hinder (the threatened judgment), and that you might by such an Instance learn how much privilege is vouchsafed with God to a faithful man and a prophet.
And now, that I may briefly pass in review the other points which you have thus far been engaged in collecting, as mean, weak, and unworthy, for demolishing the Creator, I will propound them in a simple and definite statement: that God would have been unable to hold any intercourse with men, if He had not taken on Himself the emotions and affections of man, by means of which He could temper the strength of His majesty, which would no doubt have been incapable of endurance to the moderate capacity of man, by such a humiliation as was indeed degrading to Himself, but necessary for man, and such as on this very account became worthy of God, because nothing is so worthy of God as the salvation of man. If I were arguing with heathens, I should dwell more at length on this point; although with heretics too the discussion does not stand on very different grounds.
Inasmuch as ye yourselves have now come to the belief that God moved about in the form and all other circumstances of man’s nature, you will of course no longer require to be convinced that God conformed Himself to humanity, but feel yourselves bound by your own faith. For if the God (in whom ye believe,) even from His higher condition, prostrated the supreme dignity of His majesty to such a lowliness as to undergo death, even the death of the cross, why can you not suppose that some humiliations are becoming to our God also, only more tolerable than Jewish contumelies, and crosses, and sepulchers? Are these the humiliations which henceforth are to raise a prejudice against Christ (the subject as He is of human passions) being a partaker of that Godhead against which you make the participation in human qualities a reproach?
Now we believe that Christ did ever act in the name of God the Father; that He actually from the beginning held intercourse with (men); actually communed with patriarchs and prophets; was the Son of the Creator; was His Word; whom God made His Son by emitting Him from His own self, and thenceforth set Him over every dispensation and (administration of) His will, making Him a little lower than the angels, as is written in David. In which lowering of His condition He received from the Father a dispensation in those very respects which you blame as human; from the very beginning learning, even then, (that state of a) man which He was destined in the end to become. It is He who descends, He who interrogates, He who demands, He who swears.
With regard, however, to the Father, the very gospel which is common to us will testify that He was never visible, according to the word of Christ: “No man knoweth the Father, save the Son.” [Matthew 11:27.] For even in the Old Testament He had declared, “No man shall see me, and live.” [Exodus 33:20.] He means that the Father is invisible, in whose authority and in whose name was He God who appeared as the Son of God. But with us Christ is received in the person of Christ, because even in this manner is He our God. Whatever attributes therefore you require as worthy of God, must be found in the Father, who is invisible and unapproachable, and placid, and (so to speak) the God of the philosophers; whereas those qualities which you censure as unworthy must be supposed to be in the Son, who has been seen, and heard, and encountered, the Witness and Servant of the Father, uniting in Himself man and God, God in mighty deeds, in weak ones man, in order that He may give to man as much as He takes from God.
What in your esteem is the entire disgrace of my God, is in fact the sacrament of man’s salvation. God held converse with man, that man might learn to act as God. God dealt on equal terms with man, that man might be able to deal on equal terms with God. God was found little, that man might become very great. You who disdain such a God, I hardly know whether you ex fide believe that God was crucified.
How great, then, is your perversity in respect of the two characters of the Creator! You designate Him as Judge, and reprobate as cruelty that severity of the Judge which only acts in accord with the merits of cases. You require God to be very good, and yet despise as meanness that gentleness of His which accorded with His kindness, (and) held lowly converse in proportion to the mediocrity of man’s estate. He pleases you not, whether great or little, neither as your judge nor as your friend! What if the same features should be discovered in your God? That He too is a judge, we have already shown in the proper section: that from being a judge He must needs be severe; and from being severe He must also be cruel, if indeed cruel.
Now, touching the weaknesses and malignities, and the other (alleged), notes (of the Creator), I too shall advance antitheses in rivalry to Marcion’s. If my God knew not of any other superior to Himself, your God also was utterly unaware that there was any beneath himself. It is just what Heraclitus “the obscure” said; whether it be up or down, it comes to the same thing. If, indeed, he was not ignorant (of his position), it must have occurred to Him from the beginning. Sin and death, and the author of sin too — the devil — and all the evil which my God permitted to be, this also, did your God permit; for he allowed Him to permit it. Our God changed His purposes; in like manner yours did also. For he who cast his look so late in the human race, changed that purpose, which for so long a period had refused to cast that look. Our God repented Him of the evil in a given case; so also did yours. For by the fact that he at last had regard to the salvation of man, he showed such a repentance of his previous disregard as was due for a wrong deed. But neglect of man’s salvation will be accounted a wrong deed, simply because it has been remedied by his repentance in the conduct of your God.
Our God you say commanded a fraudulent act, but in a matter of gold and silver. Now, inasmuch as man is more precious than gold and silver, in so far is your God more fraudulent still, because he robs man of his Lord and Creator. Eye for eye does our God require; but your God does even a greater injury, (in your ideas,) when he prevents an act of retaliation. For what man will not return a blow, without waiting to be struck a second time. Our God (you say) knows not whom He ought to choose. Nor does your God, for if he had foreknown the issue, he would not have chosen the traitor Judas. If you allege that the Creator practiced deception in any instance, there was a far greater mendacity in your Christ, whose very body was unreal. Many were consumed by the severity of my God. Those also who were not saved by your God are verily disposed by him to ruin. My God ordered a man to be slain. Your God willed himself to be put to death; not less a homicide against himself than in respect of him by whom he meant to be slain. I will moreover prove to Marcion that they were many who were slain by his God; for he made every one a homicide: in other words, he doomed him to perish, except when people failed in no duty towards Christ. But the straightforward virtue of truth is contented with few resources. Many things will be necessary for falsehood.
But I would have attacked Marcion’s own Antitheses in closer and fuller combat, if a more elaborate demolition of them were required in maintaining for the Creator the character of a good God and a Judge, alters the examples of both points, which we have shown to be so worthy of God. Since, however, these two attributes of goodness and justice do together make up the proper fullness of the Divine Being as omnipotent, I am able to content myself with having now compendiously refuted his Antitheses, which aim at drawing distinctions out of the qualities of the (Creator’s) artifices, or of His laws, or of His great works; and thus sundering Christ from the Creator, as the most Good from the Judge, as One who is merciful from Him who is ruthless, and One who brings salvation from Him who causes ruin. The truth is, they rather unite the two Beings whom they arrange in those diversities (of attribute), which yet are compatible in God. For only take away the title of Marcion’s book, and the intention and purpose of the work itself, and you could get no better demonstration that the selfsame God was both very good and a Judge, inasmuch as these two characters are only competently found in God. Indeed, the very effort which is made in the selected examples to oppose Christ to the Creator, conduces all the more to their union. For so entirely one and the same was the nature of the Divine Beings, the good and the severe, as shown both by the same examples and in similar proofs, that It willed to display Its goodness to those on whom It had first inflicted Its severity. The difference in time was no matter of surprise, when the same God was afterwards merciful in presence of evils which had been subdued, who had once been so austere whilst they were as yet unsubdued.
Thus, by help of the Antitheses, the dispensation of the Creator can be more readily shown to have been reformed by Christ, rather than destroyed; restored, rather than abolished; especially as you sever your own god from everything like acrimonious conduct, even from all rivalry whatsoever with the Creator. Now, since this is the case, how comes it to pass that the Antitheses demonstrate Him to have been the Creator’s rival in every disputed cause? Well, even here, too, I will allow that in these causes my God has been a jealous God, who has in His own right taken especial care that all things done by Him should be in their beginning of a robuster growth; and this in the way of a good, because rational emulation, which tends to maturity. In this sense the world itself will acknowledge His “antitheses,” from the contrariety of its own elements, although it has been regulated with the very highest reason. Wherefore, most thoughtless Marcion, it was your duty to have shown that one (of the two Gods you teach) was a God of light, and the other a God of darkness; and then you would have found it an easier task to persuade us that one was a God of goodness, the other a God of severity. However, the “antithesis” (or variety of administration) will rightly be His property, to whom it actually belongs in (the government of) the world.
FOLLOWING the track of my original treatise, the loss of which we are steadily proceeding to restore, we come now, in the order of our subject, to treat of Christ, although this be a work of supererogation, after the proof which we have gone through that there is but one only God. For no doubt it has been already ruled with sufficient clearness, that Christ must be regarded as pertaining to no other God than the Creator, when it has been determined that no other God but the Creator should be the object of our faith. Him did Christ so expressly preach, whilst the apostles one after the other also so clearly affirmed that Christ belonged to no other God than Him whom He Himself preached — that is, the Creator — that no mention of a second God (nor, accordingly, of a second Christ) was ever agitated previous to Marcion’s scandal.
This is most easily proved by an examination of both the apostolic and the heretical churches, from which we are forced to declare that there is undoubtedly a subversion of the rule (of faith), where any opinion is found of later date, — a point which I have inserted in my first book. A discussion of it would unquestionably be of value even now, when we are about to make a separate examination into (the subject of) Christ; because, whilst proving Christ to be the Creator’s Son, we are effectually shutting out the God of Marcion. Truth should employ all her available resources, and in no limping way. In our compendious rules of faith, however, she has it all her own way. But I have resolved, like an earnest man, to meet my adversary every way and everywhere in the madness of his heresy, which is so great, that he has found it easier to assume that that Christ has come who was never heard of, than He who has always been predicted.
Coming then at once to the point, I have to encounter the question, Whether Christ ought to have come so suddenly? (I answer, No.) First, because He was the Son of God His Father. For this was a point of order, that the Father should announce the Son before the Son should the Father, and that the Father should testify of the Son before the Son should testify of the Father. Secondly, because, in addition to the title of Son, He was the Sent. The authority, therefore, of the Sender must needs have first appeared in a testimony of the Sent; because none who comes in the authority of another does himself set it forth for himself on his own assertion, but rather looks out for protection from it, for first comes the support of him who gives him his authority. Now (Christ) will neither be acknowledged as Son if the Father never named Him, nor be believed in as the Sent One if no Sender gave Him a commission: the Father, if any, purposely naming Him; and the Sender, if any, purposely commissioning Him. Everything will be open to suspicion which transgresses a rule. Now the primary order of all things will not allow that the Father should come after the Son in recognition, or the Sender after the Sent, or God after Christ. Nothing can take precedence of its own original in being acknowledged, nor in like manner can it in its ordering.
Suddenly a Son, suddenly Sent, and suddenly Christ! On the contrary, I should suppose that from God nothing comes suddenly, because there is nothing which is not ordered and arranged by God. And if ordered, why not also foretold, that it may be proved to have been ordered by the prediction, and by the ordering to be divine? And indeed so great a work, which (we may be sure) required preparation, as being for the salvation of man, could not have been on that very account a sudden thing, because it was through faith that it was to be of avail. Inasmuch, then, as it had to be believed in order to be of use, so far did it require, for the securing of this faith, a preparation built upon the foundations of prearrangement and fore-announcement. Faith, when informed by such a process, might justly be required of man by God, and by man be reposed in God; it being a duty, after that knowledge has made it a possibility, to believe those things which a man had learned indeed to believe from the fore-announcement.
A procedure of this kind, you say, was not necessary, because He was forthwith to prove Himself the Son and the Sent One, and the Christ of God in very deed, by means of the evidence of His wonderful works. On my side, however, I have to deny that evidence simply of this sort was sufficient as a testimony to Him. He Himself afterwards deprived it of its authority, because when He declared that many would come and “show great signs and wonders,” so as to turn aside the very elect, and yet for all that were not to be received, He showed how rash was belief in signs and wonders, which were so very easy of accomplishment by even false christs. Else how happens it, if He meant Himself to be approved and understood, and received on a certain evidence — I mean that of miracles — that He forbade the recognition of those others who had the very same sort of proof to show, and whose coming was to be quite as sudden and unannounced by any authority? If, because He came before them, and was beforehand with them in displaying the signs of His mighty deeds, He therefore seized the first right to men’s faith, — just as the first comers do the first place in the baths, — and so forestalled all who came after Him in that right, take care that He, too, be not caught in the condition of the later comers, if He be found to be behind hand with the Creator, who had already been made known, and had already worked miracles like Him, and like Him had forewarned men not to believe in others, even such as should come after Him.
If, therefore, to have been the first to come and utter this warning, is to bar and limit faith, He will Himself have to be condemned, because He was later in being acknowledged; and authority to prescribe such a rule about later comers will belong to the Creator alone, who could have been posterior to none. And now, when I am about to prove that the Creator sometimes displayed by His servants of old, and in other cases reserved for His Christ to display, the selfsame miracles which you claim as solely due to faith in your Christ, I may fairly even from this maintain that there was so much the greater reason wherefore Christ should not be believed in simply on account of His miracles, inasmuch as these would have shown Him to belong to none other (God) than the Creator, because answering to the mighty deeds of the Creator, both as performed by His servants and reserved for His Christ; although, even if some other proofs should be found in your Christ — new ones, to wit — we should more readily believe that they, too, belong to the same God as do the old ones, rather than to him who has no other than new proofs, such as are wanting in the evidences of that antiquity which wins the assent of faith, so that even on this ground he ought to have come announced as much by prophecies of his own building up faith in him, as by miracles, especially in opposition to the Creator’s Christ who was to come fortified by signs and prophets of His own, in order that he might shine forth as the rival of Christ by help of evidence of different kinds. But how was his Christ to be foretold by a God who was himself never predicted? This, therefore, is the unavoidable inference, that neither your God nor your Christ is an object of faith, because God ought not to have been unknown, and Christ ought to have been made known through God.
He disdained, I suppose, to imitate the order of our God, as one who was displeasing to him, and was by all means to be vanquished. He wished to come, as a new being in a new way — a son previous to his father’s announcement, a sent one before the authority of the sender; so that he might in person propagate a most monstrous faith, whereby it should come to be believed that Christ was come before it should be known that He had an existence. It is here convenient to me to treat that other point: Why he came not after Christ? For when I observe that, during so long a period, his Lord bore with the greatest patience the very ruthless Creator who was all the while announcing His Christ to men, I say, that whatever reason impelled him to do so, postponing thereby his own revelation and interposition, the selfsame reason imposed on him the duty of bearing with the Creator (who had also in His Christ dispensations of His own to carry out); so that, after the completion and accomplishment of the entire plan of the rival God and the rival Christ, he might then superinduce his own proper dispensation. But he grew weary of so long an endurance, and so failed to wait till the end of the Creator’s course. It was of no use, his enduring that his Christ should be predicted, when he refused to permit him to be manifested.
Either it was without just cause that he interrupted the full course of his rival’s time, or without just cause did he so long refrain from interrupting it. What held him back at first? Or what disturbed him at last? As the case now stands, however, he has committed himself in respect of both, having revealed himself so tardily after the Creator, so hurriedly before His Christ; whereas he ought long ago to have encountered the one with a confutation, the other to have forborne encountering as yet — not to have borne with the one so long in His ruthless hostility, nor to have disquieted the other, who was as yet quiescent! In the case of both, while depriving them of their title to be considered the most good God, he showed himself at least capricious and uncertain; lukewarm (in his resentment) towards the Creator, but fervid against His Christ, and powerless in respect of them both! For he no more restrained the Creator than he resisted His Christ.
The Creator still remains such as He really is. His Christ also will come, just as it is written of Him. Why did he come after the Creator, since he was unable to correct Him by punishment? Why did he reveal himself before Christ, whom he could not hinder from appearing? If, on the contrary, he did chastise the Creator, he revealed himself, (I suppose,) after Him in order that things which require correction might come first. On which account also, (of course,) he ought to have waited for Christ to appear first, whom he was going to chastise in like manner; then he would be His punisher coming after Him, just as he had been in the case of the Creator. There is another consideration: since he will at his second advent come after Him, that as he at His first coming took hostile proceedings against the Creator, destroying the law and the prophets, which were His, so he may, to be sure, at his second coming proceed in opposition to Christ, upsetting His kingdom. Then, no doubt, he would terminate his course, and then (if ever) be worthy of belief; for else, if his work has been already perfected, it would be in vain for him to come, for there would indeed be nothing that he could further accomplish.
These preliminary remarks I have ventured to make at this first step of the discussion and while the conflict is, as it were, from a distance. But inasmuch as I shall now from this point have to grapple with my opponent on a distinct issue and in close combat, I perceive that I must advance even here some lines, at which the battle will have to be delivered; they are the Scriptures of the Creator. For as I shall have to prove that Christ was from the Creator, according to these (Scriptures), which were afterwards accomplished in the Creator’s Christ, I find it necessary to set forth the form and, so to speak, the nature of the Scriptures themselves, that they may not distract the reader’s attention by being called into controversy at the moment of their application to subjects of discussion, and by their proof being confounded with the proof of the subjects themselves. Now there are two conditions of prophetic announcement which I adduce, as requiring the assent of our adversaries in the future stages of the discussion. One, that future events are sometimes announced as if they were already passed. For it is consistent with Deity to regard as accomplished facts whatever It has determined on, because there is no difference of time with that Being in whom eternity itself directs a uniform condition of seasons.
It is indeed more natural to the prophetic divination to represent as seen and already brought to pass, even while foreseeing it, that which it foresees; in other words, that which is by all means future. As for instance, in Isaiah: “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks (I exposed) to their hands. I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” [Isaiah 50:6.] For whether it was Christ even then, as we hold, or the prophet, as the Jews say, who pronounced these words concerning himself, in either case, that which as yet had not happened sounded as if it had been already accomplished. Another characteristic will be, that very many events are figuratively predicted by means of enigmas and allegories and parables, and that they must be understood in a sense different from the literal description. For we both read of “the mountains dropping down new wine,” [Joel 3:18] but not as if one might expect “must” from the stones, or its decoction from the rocks; and also hear of “a land flowing with milk and honey,” but not as if you were to suppose that you would ever gather Samian cakes from the ground; nor does God, forsooth, offer His services as a water-bailiff or a farmer when He says, “I will open rivers in a land; I will plant in the wilderness the cedar and the box-tree.” [Isaiah 41:19.]
In like manner, when, foretelling the conversion of the Gentiles, He says, “The beasts of the field shall honor me, the dragons and the owls,” [Isaiah 43:20] He surely never meant to derive His fortunate omens from the young of birds and foxes, and from the songsters of marvel and fable. But why enlarge on such a subject? When the very apostle whom our heretics adopt, interprets the law which allows an unmuzzled mouth to the oxen that tread out the corn, not of cattle, but of ourselves; and also alleges that the rock which followed (the Israelites) and supplied them with drink was Christ; teaching the Galatians, moreover, that the two narratives of the sons of Abraham had an allegorical meaning in their course; and to the Ephesians giving an intimation that, when it was declared in the beginning that a man should leave his father and mother and become one flesh with his wife, he applied this to Christ and the church.
Since, therefore, there clearly exist these two characteristics in the Jewish prophetic literature, let the reader remember, whenever we adduce any evidence therefrom, that, by mutual consent, the point of discussion is not the form of the scripture, but the subject it is called in to prove. When, therefore, our heretics in their frenzy presumed to say that that Christ was come who had never been fore-announced, it followed that, on their assumption, that Christ had not yet appeared who had always been predicted; and thus they are obliged to make common cause with Jewish error, and construct their arguments with its assistance, on the pretense that the Jews were themselves quite certain that it was some other who came: so they not only rejected Him as a stranger, but slew Him as an enemy, although they would without doubt have acknowledged Him, and with all religious devotion followed Him, if He had only been one of themselves: Our shipmaster of course got his craft-wisdom not from the Rhodian law, but from the Pontic, which cautioned him against believing that the Jews had no right to sin against their Christ; whereas (even if nothing like their conduct had been predicted against them) human nature alone, liable to error as it is, might well have induced him to suppose that it was quite possible for the Jews to have committed such a sin, considered as men, without assuming any unfair prejudice regarding their feelings, whose sin was antecedently so credible.
Since, however, it was actually foretold that they would not acknowledge Christ, and therefore would even put Him to death, it will therefore follow that He was both ignored and slain by them, who were beforehand pointed out as being about to commit such offenses against Him. If you require a proof of this, instead of turning out those passages of Scripture which, while they declare Christ to be capable of suffering death, do thereby also affirm the possibility of His being rejected (for if He had not been rejected, He could not really suffer anything), but rather reserving them for the subject of His sufferings, I shall content myself at the present moment with adducing those which simply show that there was a probability of Christ’s rejection. This is quickly done, since the passages indicate that the entire power of understanding was by the Creator taken from the people. “I will take away,” says He, “the wisdom of their wise men; and the understanding of their prudent men will I hide;” [Isaiah 29:14] and again: “With your ear ye shall hear, and not understand; and with your eyes ye shall see, but not perceive: for the heart of this people hath growth fat, and with their ears they hear heavily, and their eyes have they shut; lest they hear with their ears, and see with their eyes, and understand with the heart, and be converted, and I heal them.” [Isaiah 6:10.]
Now this blunting of their sound senses they had brought on themselves, loving God with their lips, but keeping far away from Him in their heart. Since, then, Christ was announced by the Creator, “who formeth the lightning, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man His Christ,” as the prophet Joel says, since the entire hope of the Jews, not to say of the Gentiles too, was fixed on the manifestation of Christ, — it was demonstrated that they, by their being deprived of those powers of knowledge and understanding — wisdom and prudence, would fail to know and understand that which was predicted, even Christ; when the chief of their wise men should be in error respecting Him — that is to say, their scribes and prudent ones, or Pharisees; and when the people, like them, should hear with their ears and not understand Christ while teaching them, and see with their eyes and not perceive Christ, although giving them signs. Similarly it is said elsewhere: “Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, but he who ruleth over them?” [Isaiah 42:19.] Also when He upbraids them by the same Isaiah: “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know; my people doth not consider.” [Isaiah 1:3.]
We indeed, who know for certain that Christ always spoke in the prophets, as the Spirit of the Creator (for so says the prophet: “The person of our Spirit, Christ the Lord,” [Lamentations 4:20] who from the beginning was both heard and seen as the Father’s vicegerent in the name of God), are well aware that His words, when actually upbraiding Israel, were the same as those which it was foretold that He should denounce against him: “Ye have forsaken the Lord, and have provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger.” [Isaiah 1:4.] If, however, you would rather refer to God Himself, instead of to Christ, the whole imputation of Jewish ignorance from the first, through an unwillingness to allow that even anciently the Creator’s word and Spirit — that is to say, His Christ — was despised and not acknowledged by them, you will even in this subterfuge be defeated. For when you do not deny that the Creator’s Son and Spirit and Substance is also His Christ, you must needs allow that those who have not acknowledged the Father have failed likewise to acknowledge the Son through the identity of their natural substance; for if in Its fullness It has baffled man’s understanding, much more has a portion of It, especially when partaking of the fullness now, when these things are carefully considered, it becomes evident how the Jews both rejected Christ and slew Him; not because they regarded Him as a strange Christ, but because they did not acknowledge Him, although their own.
For how could they have understood the strange One, concerning whom nothing had ever been announced, when they failed to understand Him about whom there had been a perpetual course of prophecy? That admits of being understood or being not understood, which, by possessing a substantial basis for prophecy, will also have a subject-matter for either knowledge or error; whilst that which lacks such matter admits not the issue of wisdom. So that it was not as if He belonged to another God that they conceived an aversion for Christ, and persecuted Him, but simply as a man whom they regarded as a wonder-working juggler, and an enemy in His doctrines. They brought Him therefore to trial as a mere man, and one of themselves too — that is, a Jew (only a renegade and a destroyer of Judaism) — and punished Him according to their law. If He had been a stranger, indeed, they would not have sat in judgment over Him. So far are they from appearing to have understood Him to be a strange Christ, that they did not even judge Him to be a stranger to their own human nature.
Our heretic will now have the fullest opportunity of learning the clue of his errors along with the Jew himself, from whom he has borrowed his guidance in this discussion. Since, however, the blind leads the blind, they fall into the ditch together. We affirm that, as there are two conditions demonstrated by the prophets to belong to Christ, so these presignified the same number of advents; one, and that the first, was to be in lowliness, when He had to be led as a sheep to be slain as a victim, and to be as a lamb dumb before the shearer, not opening His mouth, and not fair to look upon. For, says (the prophet), we have announced concerning Him: “He is like a tender plant, like a root out of a thirsty ground; He hath no form nor comeliness; and we beheld Him, and He was without beauty: His form was disfigured;” [Isaiah 53:2] “marred more than the sons of men; a man stricken with sorrows, and knowing how to bear our infirmity;” “placed by the Father as a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense;” [Isaiah 8:14] “made by Him a little lower than the angels;” [Psalm 8:5] declaring Himself to be “a worm and not a man, a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” [Psalm 22:6.]
Now these signs of degradation quite suit His first coming, just as the tokens of His majesty do His second advent, when He shall no longer remain “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,” but after His rejection become “the chief corner-stone,” [Ephesians 2:20] accepted and elevated to the top place of the temple, even His church, being that very stone in Daniel, cut out of the mountain, which was to smite and crush the image of the secular kingdom. Of this advent the same prophet says: “Behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days; and they brought Him before Him, and there was given Him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away; and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” [Daniel 7:13-14.] Then indeed He shall have both a glorious form, and an unsullied beauty above the sons of men. “Thou art fairer,” says (the Psalmist), “than the children of men; grace is poured into Thy lips; therefore God hath blessed Thee for ever. Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O most mighty, with Thy glory and Thy majesty.” [Psalm 45:2-3.] For the Father, after making Him a little lower than the angels, “will crown Him with glory and honor, and put all things under His feet.” [Psalm 8:5-6.]
“Then shall they look on Him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, tribe after tribe;” [Zechariah 12:10] because, no doubt, they once refused to acknowledge Him in the lowliness of His human condition. He is even a man says Jeremiah, and who shall recognize Him Therefore, asks Isaiah, “who shall declare His generation?” [Isaiah 53:8.] So also in Zechariah, Christ Jesus, the true High Priest of the Father, in the person of Joshua, nay, in the very mystery of His name, is portrayed in a twofold dress with reference to both His advents. At first He is clad in sordid garments, that is to say, in the lowliness of suffering and mortal flesh: then the devil resisted Him, as the instigator of the traitor Judas, not to mention his tempting Him after His baptism: afterwards He was stripped of His first filthy raiment, and adorned with the priestly robe and miter, and a pure diadem; in other words, with the glory and honor of His second advent.
If I may offer, moreover, an interpretation of the two goats which were presented on “the great day of atonement,” do they not also figure the two natures of Christ? They were of like size, and very similar in appearance, owing to the Lord’s identity of aspect; because He is not to come in any other form, having to be recognized by those by whom He was also wounded and pierced. One of these goats was bound with scarlet, and driven by the people out of the camp into the wilderness, amid cursing, and spitting, and pulling, and piercing, being thus marked with all the signs of the Lord’s own passion; while the other, by being offered up for sins, and given to the priests of the temple for meat, afforded proofs of His second appearance, when (after all sins have been expiated) the priests of the spiritual temple, that is, the church, are to enjoy the flesh, as it were, of the Lord’s own grace, whilst the residue go away from salvation without tasting it. Since, therefore, the first advent was prophetically declared both as most obscure in its types, and as deformed with every kind of indignity, but the second as glorious and altogether worthy of God, they would on this very account, while confining their regards to that which they were easily able both to understand and to believe, even the second advent, be not undeservedly deceived respecting the more obscure, and, at any rate, the more lowly first coming. Accordingly, to this day they deny that their Christ has come, because He has not appeared in majesty, while they ignore the fact that He was to come also in lowliness.
Our heretic must now cease to borrow poison from the Jew — “the asp,” as the adage runs, “from the viper” — and henceforth vomit forth the virulence of his own disposition, as when he alleges Christ to be a phantom. Except, indeed, that this opinion of his will be sure to have others to maintain it in his precocious and somewhat abortive Marcionites, whom the Apostle John designated as antichrists, when they denied that Christ was come in the flesh; not that they did this with the view of establishing the right of the other God (for on this point also they had been branded by the same apostle), but because they had started with assuming the incredibility of an incarnate God. Now, the more firmly the antichrist Marcion had seized this assumption, the more prepared was he, of course, to reject the bodily substance of Christ, since he had introduced his very God to our notice as neither the author nor the restorer of the flesh; and for this very reason, to be sure, as pre-eminently good, and most remote from the deceits and fallacies of the Creator.
His Christ, therefore, in order to avoid all such deceits and fallacies, and the imputation, if possible, of belonging to the Creator, was not what he appeared to be, and feigned himself to be what he was not — incarnate without being flesh, human without being man, and likewise a divine Christ without being God! But why should he not have propagated also the phantom of God? Can I believe him on the subject of the internal nature, who was all wrong touching the external substance? How will it be possible to believe him true on a mystery, when he has been found so false on a plain fact? How, moreover, when he confounds the truth of the spirit with the error of the flesh, could he combine within himself that communion of light and darkness, or truth and error, which the apostle says cannot co-exist? Since however, Christ’s being flesh is now discovered to be a lie, it follows that all things which were done by the flesh of Christ were done untruly, — every act of intercourse, of contact, of eating or drinking, yea, His very miracles. If with a touch, or by being touched, He freed any one of a disease, whatever was done by any corporeal act cannot be believed to have been truly done in the absence of all reality in His body itself.
Nothing substantial can be allowed to have been effected by an unsubstantial thing; nothing full by a vacuity. If the habit were putative, the action was putative; if the worker were imaginary the works were imaginary. On this principle, too, the sufferings of Christ will be found not to warrant faith in Him. For He suffered nothing who did not truly suffer; and a phantom could not truly suffer. God’s entire work, therefore, is subverted. Christ’s death, wherein lies the whole weight and fruit of the Christian name, is denied although the apostle asserts it so expressly as undoubtedly real, making it the very foundation of the gospel, of our salvation and of his own preaching. “I have delivered unto you before all things,” says he, “how that Christ died for our sins, and that he was buried, and that He rose again the third day.” [1 Corinthians 15:3-4.] Besides, if His flesh is denied, how is His death to be asserted; for death is the proper suffering of the flesh, which returns through death back to the earth out of which it was taken, according to the law of its Maker? Now, if His death be denied, because of the denial of His flesh, there will be no certainty of His resurrection. For He rose not, for the very same reason that He died not, even because He possessed not the reality of the flesh, to which as death accrues, so does resurrection likewise.
Similarly, if Christ’s resurrection be nullified, ours also is destroyed. If Christ’s resurrection be not realized, neither shall that be for which Christ came. For just as they, who said that there is no resurrection of the dead, are refuted by the apostle from the resurrection of Christ, so, if the resurrection of Christ falls to the ground, the resurrection of the dead is also swept away. And so our faith is vain, and vain also is the preaching of the apostles. Moreover, they even show themselves to be false witnesses of God, because they testified that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise. And we remain in our sins still. And those who have slept in Christ have perished; destined, forsooth, to rise again, but peradventure in a phantom state, just like Christ.
Now, in this discussion of yours, when you suppose that we are to be met with the case of the Creator’s angels, as if they held intercourse with Abraham and Lot in a phantom state, that of merely putative flesh, and yet did truly converse, and eat, and work, as they had been commissioned to do, you will not, to begin with, be permitted to use as examples the acts of that God whom you are destroying. For by how much you make your God a better and more perfect being, by just so much will all examples be unsuitable to him of that God from whom he totally differs, and without which difference he would not be at all better or more perfect. But then, secondly, you must know that it will not be conceded to you, that in the angels there was only a putative flesh, but one of a true and solid human substance. For if (on your terms) it was no difficulty to him to manifest true sensations and actions in a putative flesh, it was much more easy for him still to have assigned the true substance of flesh to these true sensations and actions, as the proper maker and former thereof. But your god, perhaps on the ground of his having produced no flesh at all, was quite right in introducing the mere phantom of that of which he had been unable to produce the reality.
My God, however, who formed that which He had taken out of the dust of the ground in the true quality of flesh, although not issuing as yet from conjugal seed, was equally able to apply to angels too a flesh of any material whatsoever, who built even the world out of nothing, into so many and so various bodies, and that at a word! And, really, if your god promises to men some time or other the true nature of angels (for he says, “They shall be like the angels” [Matthew 22:30]), why should not my God also have fitted on to angels the true substance of men, from whatever source derived? For not even you will tell me, in reply, whence is obtained that angelic nature on your side; so that it is enough for me to define this as being fit and proper to God, even the verity of that thing which was objective to three senses — sight, touch, and hearing. It is more difficult for God to practice deception than to produce real flesh from any material whatever, even without the means of birth. But for other heretics, also, who maintain that the flesh in the angels ought to have been born of flesh, if it had been really human, we have an answer on a sure principle, to the effect that it was truly human flesh, and yet not born. It was truly human, because of the truthfulness of God, who can neither lie nor deceive, and because (angelic beings) cannot be dealt with by men in a human way except in human substance: it was withal unborn, because none but Christ could become incarnate by being born of the flesh in order that by His own nativity He might regenerate our birth, and might further by His death also dissolve our death, by rising again in that flesh in which, that He might even die, He was born.
Therefore on that occasion He did Himself appear with the angels to Abraham in the verity of the flesh, which had not as yet undergone birth, because it was not yet going to die, although it was even now learning to hold intercourse amongst men. Still greater was the propriety in angels, who never received a dispensation to die for us, not having assumed even a brief experience of flesh by being born, because they were not destined to lay it down again by dying; but, from whatever quarter they obtained it, and by what means soever they afterwards entirely divested themselves of it, they yet never pretended it to be unreal flesh. Since the Creator “maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire” [Hebrews1:7] — as truly spirits as also fire — so has He truly made them flesh likewise; wherefore we can now recall to our own minds, and remind the heretics also, that He has promised that He will one day form men into angels, who once formed angels into men.
Therefore, since you are not permitted to resort to any instances of the Creator, as alien from the subject, and possessing special causes of their own, I should like you to state yourself the design of your god, in exhibiting his Christ not in the reality of flesh. If he despised it as earthly, and (as you express it) full of dung, why did he not on that account include the likeness of it also in his contempt? For no honor is to be attributed to the image of anything which is itself unworthy of honor. As the natural state is, so will the likeness be. But how could he hold converse with men except in the image of human substance? Why, then, not rather in the reality thereof, that his intercourse might be real, since he was under the necessity of holding it? And to how much better account would this necessity have been turned by ministering to faith rather than to a fraud! The god whom you make is miserable enough, for this very reason that he was unable to display his Christ except in the effigy of an unworthy, and indeed an alien, thing.
In some instances, it will be convenient to use even unworthy things, if they be only our own, as it will also be quite improper to use things, be they ever so worthy, if they be not our own. Why, then, did he not come in some other worthier substance, and especially his own, that he might not seem as if he could not have done without an unworthy and an alien one? Now, since my Creator held intercourse with man by means of even a bush and fire, and again afterwards by means of a cloud and column, and in representations of Himself used bodies composed of the elements, these examples of divine power afford sufficient proof that God did not require the instrumentality of false or even of real flesh. But yet, if we look steadily into the subject, there is really no substance which is worthy of becoming a vestment for God. Whatsoever He is pleased to clothe Himself withal, He makes worthy of Himself — only without untruth. Therefore how comes it to pass that he should have thought the verity of the flesh, rather than its unreality, a disgrace? Well, but he honored it by his fiction of it. How great, then, is that flesh, the very fantasy of which was a necessity to the superior God!
All these illusions of an imaginary corporeity in (his) Christ, Marcion adopted with this view, that his nativity also might not be furnished with any evidence from his human substance, and that thus the Christ of the Creator might be free to have assigned to Him all predictions which treated of Him as one capable of human birth, and therefore fleshly. But most foolishly did our Pontic heresiarch act in this too. As if it would not be more readily believed that flesh in the Divine Being should rather be unborn than untrue, this belief having in fact had the way mainly prepared for it by the Creator’s angels when they conversed in flesh which was real, although unborn. For indeed the notorious Philumena persuaded Apelles and the other seceders from Marcion rather to believe that Christ did really carry about a body of flesh; not derived to Him, however, from birth, but one which He borrowed from the elements.
Now, as Marcion was apprehensive that a belief of the fleshly body would also involve a belief of birth, undoubtedly He who seemed to be man was believed to be verily and indeed born. For a certain woman had exclaimed, “Blessed is the womb that bare Thee, and the paps which Thou hast sucked!” [Luke 11:27.] And how else could they have said that His mother and His brethren were standing without? But we shall see more of this in the proper place. Surely, when He also proclaimed Himself as the Son of man, He, without doubt, confessed that He had been born. Now I would rather refer all these points to an examination of the gospel; but still, as I have already stated, if he, who seemed to be man, had by all means to pass as having been born, it was vain for him to suppose that faith in his nativity was to be perfected by the device of an imaginary flesh. For what advantage was there in that being not true which was held to be true, whether it were his flesh or his birth? Or if you should say, let human opinion go for nothing; you are then honoring your god under the shelter of a deception, since he knew himself to be something different from what he had made men to think of him.
In that case you might possibly have assigned to him a putative nativity even, and so not have hung the question on this point. For silly women fancy themselves pregnant sometimes, when they are corpulent either from their natural flux or from some other malady. And, no doubt, it had become his duty, since he had put on the mere mask of his substance, to act out from its earliest scene the play of his fantasy, lest he should have failed in his part at the beginning of the flesh. You have, of course, rejected the sham of a nativity, and have produced true flesh itself. And, no doubt, even the real nativity of a God is a most mean thing. Come then, wind up your cavils against the most sacred and reverend works of nature; inveigh against all that you are; destroy the origin of flesh and life; call the womb a sewer of the illustrious animal — in other words, the manufactory for the production of man; dilate on the impure and shameful tortures of parturition, and then on the filthy, troublesome, contemptible issues of the puerperal labor itself!
But yet, after you have pulled all these things down to infamy, that you may affirm them to be unworthy of God, birth will not be worse for Him than death, infancy than the cross, punishment than nature, condemnation than the flesh. If Christ truly suffered all this, to be born was a less thing for Him. If Christ suffered evasively, as a phantom; evasively, too, might He have been born. Such are Marcion’s chief arguments by which he makes out another Christ; and I think that we show plainly enough that they are utterly irrelevant, when we teach how much more truly consistent with God is the reality rather than the falsehood of that condition in which He manifested His Christ. Since He was “the truth,” He was flesh; since He was flesh, He was born. For the points which this heresy assaults are confirmed, when the means of the assault are destroyed. Therefore if He is to be considered in the flesh, because He was born; and born, because He is in the flesh, and because He is no phantom, — it follows that He must be acknowledged as Himself the very Christ of the Creator, who was by the Creator’s prophets foretold as about to come in the flesh, and by the process of human birth.
And challenge us first, as is your wont, to consider Isaiah’s description of Christ, while you contend that in no point does it suit. For, to begin with, you say that Isaiah’s Christ will have to be called Emmanuel; then, that He takes the riches of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria against the king of Assyria. But yet He who is come was neither born under such a name, nor ever engaged in any warlike enterprise. I must, however, remind you that you ought to look into the contexts of the two passages. For there is immediately added the interpretation of Emmanuel, “God with us;” so that you have to consider not merely the name as it is uttered, but also its meaning. The utterance is Hebrew, Emmanuel, of the prophet’s own nation; but the meaning of the word, God with us, is by the interpretation made common property. Inquire, then, whether this name, God-with-us, which is Emmanuel, be not often used for the name of Christ, from the fact that Christ has enlightened the world. And I suppose you will not deny it, inasmuch as you do yourself admit that He is called God-with-us, that is, Emmanuel.
Else if you are so foolish, that, because with you He gets the designation God-with-us, not Emmanuel, you therefore are unwilling to grant that He is come whose property it is to be called Emmanuel, as if this were not the same name as God-with-us, you will find among the Hebrew Christians, and amongst Marcionites too, that they name Him Emmanuel when they mean Him to be called God-with-us; just indeed as every nation, by whatever word they would express God-with-us, has called Him Emmanuel, completing the sound in its sense. Now since Emmanuel is God-with-us, and God-with-us is Christ, who is in us (for “as many of you as are baptized into Christ, have put on Christ” [Galatians 3:27]), Christ is as properly implied in the meaning of the name, which is God-with-us, as He is in the pronunciation of the name, which is Emmanuel. And thus it is evident that He is now come who was foretold as Emmanuel, because what Emmanuel signifies is come, that is to say, God-with-us.
You are equally led away by the sound of names, when you so understand the riches of Damascus, and the spoils of Samaria, and the king of Assyria, as if they portended that the Creator’s Christ was a warrior, not attending to the promise contained in the passage, “For before the Child shall have knowledge to cry, My father and My mother, He shall take away the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria before the king of Assyria.” [Isaiah 8:4.] You should first examine the point of age, whether it can be taken to represent Christ as even yet a man, much less a warrior. Although, to be sure, He might be about to call to arms by His cry as an infant; might be about to sound the alarm of war not with a trumpet, but with a little rattle; might be about to seek His foe, not on horseback, or in chariot, or from parapet, but from nurse’s neck or nursemaid’s back, and so be destined to subjugate Damascus and Samaria from His mother’s breasts!
It is a different matter, of course, when the babes of your barbarian Pontus spring forth to the fight. They are, I ween, taught to lance before they lacerate; swathed at first in sunshine and ointment, afterwards armed with the satchel, and rationed on bread and butter! Now, since nature, certainly, nowhere grants to man to learn warfare before life, to pillage the wealth of a Damascus before he knows his father and mother’s name, it follows that the passage in question must be deemed to be a figurative one. Well, but nature, says he, does not permit “a virgin to conceive,” and still the prophet is believed. And indeed very properly; for he has paved the way for the incredible thing being believed, by giving a reason for its occurrence, in that it was to be for a sign.
“Therefore,” says he, “the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son.” [Isaiah 7:14.] Now a sign from God would not have been a sign, unless it had been some novel and prodigious thing. Then, again, Jewish cavilers, in order to disconcert us, boldly pretend that Scripture does not hold that a virgin, but only a young woman, is to conceive and bring forth. They are, however, refuted by this consideration, that nothing of the nature of a sign can possibly come out of what is a daily occurrence, the pregnancy and child-bearing of a young woman. A virgin mother is justly deemed to be proposed by God as a sign, but a warlike infant has no like claim to the distinction; for even in such a case there does not occur the character of a sign. But after the sign of the strange and novel birth has been asserted, there is immediately afterwards declared as a sign the subsequent course of the Infant, who was to eat butter and honey. Not that this indeed is of the nature of a sign, nor is His “refusing the evil;” for this, too, is only a characteristic of infancy. But His destined capture of the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria before the king of Assyria is no doubt a wonderful sign. Keep to the measure of His age, and seek the purport of the prophecy, and give back also to the truth of the gospel what you have taken away from it in the lateness of your heresy, and the prophecy at once becomes intelligible and declares its own accomplishment. Let those eastern magi wait on the new-born Christ, presenting to Him, (although) in His infancy, their gifts of gold and frankincense; and surely an Infant will have received the riches of Damascus without a battle, and unarmed.
For besides the generally known fact, that the riches of the East, that is to say, its strength and resources, usually consist of gold and spices, it is certainly true of the Creator, that He makes gold the riches of the other nations also. Thus He says by Zechariah: “And Judah shall also fight at Jerusalem and shall gather together all the wealth of the nations round about, gold and silver.” [Zechariah 14:14.] Moreover, respecting that gift of gold, David also says: “And there shall be given to Him of the gold of Arabia;” and again: “The kings of Arabia and Saba shall offer to Him gifts.” For the East generally regarded the magi as kings; and Damascus was anciently deemed to belong to Arabia, before it was transferred to Syrophoenicia on the division of the Syrias (by Rome).
Its riches Christ then received, when He received the tokens thereof in the gold and spices; while the spoils of Samaria were the magi themselves. These having discovered Him and honored Him with their gifts, and on bended knee adored Him as their God and King, through the witness of the star which led their way and guided them, became the spoils of Samaria, that is to say, of idolatry, because, as it is easy enough to see, they believed in Christ. He designated idolatry under the name of Samaria, as that city was shameful for its idolatry, through which it had then revolted from God from the days of king Jeroboam. Nor is this an unusual manner for the Creator, (in His Scriptures) figuratively to employ names of places as a metaphor derived from the analogy of their sins. Thus He calls the chief men of the Jews “rulers of Sodom,” and the nation itself “people of Gomorrah.” And in another passage He also says: “Thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite,” [Ezekiel 16:3] by reason of their kindred iniquity; although He had actually called them His sons: “I have nourished and brought up children.” [Isaiah 1:2.]
So likewise by Egypt is sometimes understood, in His sense, the whole world as being marked out by superstition and a curse. By a similar usage Babylon also in our (St.) John is a figure of the city of Rome, as being like (Babylon) great and proud in royal power, and warring down the saints of God. Now it was in accordance with this style that He called the magi by the name of Samaritans, because (as we have said) they had practiced idolatry as did the Samaritans. Moreover, by the phrase “before or against the king of Assyria,” understand “against Herod;” against whom the magi then opposed themselves, when they refrained from carrying him back word concerning Christ, whom he was seeking to destroy.
This interpretation of ours will derive confirmation, when, on your supposing that Christ is in any passage called a warrior, from the mention of certain arms and expressions of that sort, you weigh well the analogy of their other meanings, and draw your conclusions accordingly. “Gird on Thy sword,” says David, “upon Thy thigh.” [Psalm 45:3.] But what do you read about Christ just before? “Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured forth upon Thy lips.” [Psalm 45:2.] It amuses me to imagine that blandishments of fair beauty and graceful lips are ascribed to one who had to gird on His sword for war! So likewise, when it is added, “Ride on prosperously in Thy majesty,” the reason is subjoined: “Because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness.” But who shall produce these results with the sword, and not their opposites rather — deceit, and harshness, and injury — which, it must be confessed, are the proper business of battles?
Let us see, therefore, whether that is not some other sword, which has so different an action. Now the Apostle John, in the Apocalypse, describes a sword which proceeded from the mouth of God as “a doubly sharp, two-edged one.” [Revelation 1:16.] This may be understood to be the Divine Word, who is doubly edged with the two testaments of the law and the gospel — sharpened with wisdom, hostile to the devil, arming us against the spiritual enemies of all wickedness and concupiscence, and cutting us off from the dearest objects for the sake of God’s holy name. If, however, you will not acknowledge John, you have our common master Paul, who “girds our loins about with truth, and puts on us the breastplate of righteousness, and shoes us with the preparation of the gospel of peace, not of war; who bids us take the shield of faith, wherewith we may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the devil, and the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which (he says) is the word of God.” [Ephesians 6:14-17.]
This sword the Lord Himself came to send on earth, and not peace. If he is your Christ, then even he is a warrior. If he is not a warrior, and the sword he brandishes is an allegorical one, then the Creator’s Christ in the psalm too may have been girded with the figurative sword of the Word, without any martial gear. The above-mentioned “fairness” of His beauty and “grace of His lips” would quite suit such a sword, girt as it even then was upon His thigh in the passage of David, and sent as it would one day be by Him on earth. For this is what He says: “Ride on prosperously in Thy majesty” — advancing His word into every land, so as to call all nations: destined to prosper in the success of that faith which received Him, and reigning, from the fact that He conquered death by His resurrection. “Thy right hand,” says He, “shall wonderfully lead Thee forth,” even the might of Thy spiritual grace, whereby the knowledge of Christ is spread. “Thine arrows are sharp;” everywhere Thy precepts fly about, Thy threatenings also, and convictions of heart, pricking and piercing each conscience. “The people shall fall under Thee,” that is, in adoration.
Thus is the Creator’s Christ mighty in war, and a bearer of arms; thus also does He now take the spoils, not of Samaria alone, but of all nations. Acknowledge, then, that His spoils are figurative, since you have learned that His arms are allegorical. Since, therefore, both the Lord speaks and His apostle writes such things in a figurative style, we are not rash in using His interpretations, the records of which even our adversaries admit; and thus in so far will it be Isaiah’s Christ who has come, in as far as He was not a warrior, because it is not of such a character that He is described by Isaiah.
Touching then the discussion of His flesh, and (through that) of His nativity, and incidentally of His name Emmanuel, let this suffice. Concerning His other names, however, and especially that of Christ, what has the other side to say in reply? If the name of Christ is as common with you as is the name of God — so that as the Son of both Gods may be fitly called Christ, so each of the Fathers may be called Lord — reason will certainly be opposed to this argument. For the name of God, as being the natural designation of Deity, may be ascribed to all those beings for whom a divine nature is claimed, — as, for instance, even to idols. The apostle says: “For there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth.” [1 Corinthians 8:5.] The name of Christ, however, does not arise from nature, but from dispensation; and so becomes the proper name of Him to whom it accrues in consequence of the dispensation. Nor is it subject to be shared in by any other God, especially a rival, and one that has a dispensation of His own, to whom it will be also necessary that He should possess names apart from all others.
For how happens it that, after they have devised different dispensations for two Gods they admit into this diversity of dispensation a community of names; whereas no proof could be more useful of two Gods being rival ones, than if there should be found coincident with their (diverse) dispensations a diversity also of names? For that is not a state of diverse qualities, which is not distinctly indicated in the specific meanings of their designations. Whenever these are wanting, there occurs what the Greeks call the katachresis of a term, by its improper application to what does not belong to it. In God, however, there ought, I suppose, to be no defect, no setting up of His dispensations by katachrestic abuse of words. Who is this god, that claims for his son names from the Creator? I say not names which do not belong to him, but ancient and well-known names, which even in this view of them would be unsuitable for a novel and unknown god.
How is it, again, that he tells us that “a piece of new cloth is not sewed on to an old garment,” or that “new wine is not trusted to old bottles,” [Matthew 9:16-17] when he is himself patched and clad in an old suit of names? How is it he has rent off the gospel from the law, when he is wholly invested with the law, — in the name, forsooth, of Christ? What hindered his calling himself by some other name, seeing that he preached another (gospel), came from another source, and refused to take on him a real body, for the very purpose that he might not be supposed to be the Creator’s Christ? Vain, however, was his unwillingness to seem to be He whose name he was willing to assume; since, even if he had been truly corporeal, he would more certainly escape being taken for the Christ of the Creator, if he had not taken on him His name. But, as it is, he rejects the substantial verity of Him whose name he has assumed, even though he should give a proof of that verity by his name.
For Christ means anointed, and to be anointed is certainly an affair of the body. He who had not a body, could not by any possibility have been anointed; he who could not by any possibility have been anointed, could not in any wise have been called Christ. It is a different thing (quite), if he only assumed the phantom of a name too. But how, he asks, was he to insinuate himself into being believed by the Jews, except through a name which was usual and familiar amongst them? Then ’tis a fickle and tricksty God whom you describe! To promote any plan by deception, is the resource of either distrust or of maliciousness. Much more frank and simple was the conduct of the false prophets against the Creator, when they came in His name as their own God. But I do not find that any good came of this proceeding, since they were more apt to suppose either that Christ was their own, or rather was some deceiver, than that He was the Christ of the other god; and this the gospel will show.
Now if he caught at the name Christ, just as the pickpocket clutches the dole-basket, why did he wish to be called Jesus too, by a name which was not so much looked for by the Jews? For although we, who have by God’s grace attained to the understanding of His mysteries, acknowledge that this name also was destined for Christ, yet, for all that, the fact was not known to the Jews, from whom wisdom was taken away. To this day, in short, it is Christ that they are looking for, not Jesus; and they interpret Elias to be Christ rather than Jesus. He, therefore, who came also in a name in which Christ was not expected, might have come only in that name which was solely anticipated for Him. But since he has mixed up the two, the expected one and the unexpected, his twofold project is defeated. For if he be Christ for the very purpose of insinuating himself as the Creator’s, then Jesus opposes him, because Jesus was not looked for in the Christ of the Creator; or if he be Jesus, in order that he might pass as belonging to the other (God), then Christ hinders him, because Christ was not expected to belong to any other than the Creator.
I know not which one of these names may be able to hold its ground. In the Christ of the Creator, however, both will keep their place, for in Him a Jesus too is found. Do you ask, how? Learn it then here, with the Jews also who are partakers of your heresy. When Oshea the son of Nun was destined to be the successor of Moses, is not his old name then changed, and for the first time he is called Joshua? It is true, you say. This, then, we first observe, was a figure of Him who was to come. For inasmuch as Jesus Christ was to introduce a new generation (because we are born in the wilderness of this world) into the promised land which flows with milk and honey, that is, into the possession of eternal life, than which nothing can be sweeter; inasmuch, too, as this was to be brought about not by Moses, that is to say, not by the discipline of the law, but by Joshua, by the grace of the gospel, our circumcision being effected by a knife of stone, that is, (by the circumcision) of Christ, for Christ is a rock (or stone), therefore that great man, who was ordained as a type of this mystery, was actually consecrated with the figure of the Lord’s own name, being called Joshua.
This name Christ Himself even then testified to be His own, when He talked with Moses. For who was it that talked with him, but the Spirit of the Creator, which is Christ? When He therefore spake this commandment to the people, “Behold, I send my angel before thy face, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the land which I have prepared for thee; attend to him, and obey his voice and do not provoke him; for he has not shunned you, since my name is upon him,” [Exodus 23:20-21] He called him an angel indeed, because of the greatness of the powers which he was to exercise, and because of his prophetic office, while announcing the will of God; but Joshua also (Jesus), because it was a type of His own future name. Often did He confirm that name of His which He had thus conferred upon (His servant); because it was not the name of angel, nor Oshea, but Joshua (Jesus), which He had commanded him to bear as his usual appellation for the time to come. Since, therefore, both these names are suitable to the Christ of the Creator, they are proportionately unsuitable to the non-Creator’s Christ; and so indeed is all the rest of (our Christ’s) destined course.
In short, there must now for the future be made between us that certain and equitable rule, necessary to both sides, which shall determine that there ought to be absolutely nothing at all in common between the Christ of the other god and the Creator’s Christ. For you will have as great a necessity to maintain their diversity as we have to resist it, inasmuch as you will be as unable to show that the Christ of the other god has come, until you have proved him to be a far different being from the Creator’s Christ, as we, to claim Him (who has come) as the Creator’s, until we have shown Him to be such a one as the Creator has appointed. Now respecting their names, such is our conclusion against (Marcion). I claim for myself Christ; I maintain for myself Jesus.
Let us compare with Scripture the rest of His dispensation. Whatever that poor despised body may be, because it was an object of touch and sight, it shall be my Christ, be He inglorious, be He ignoble, be He dishonored; for such was it announced that He should be, both in bodily condition and aspect. Isaiah comes to our help again: “We have announced (His way) before Him,” says he; “He is like a servant, like a root in a dry ground; He hath no form nor comeliness; we saw Him, and He had neither form nor beauty; but His form was despised, marred above all men.” [Isaiah 53:2.] Similarly the Father addressed the Son just before: “Inasmuch as many will be astonished at Thee, so also will Thy beauty be without glory from men.” For although, in David’s words, “He is fairer than the children of men,” yet it is in that figurative state of spiritual grace, when He is girded with the sword of the Spirit, which is verily His form, and beauty, and glory. According to the same prophet, however, He is in bodily condition “a very worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and an outcast of the people.” But no internal quality of such a kind does He announce as belonging to Him.
In Him dwelt the fullness of the Spirit; therefore I acknowledge Him to be “the rod of the stem of Jesse.” [Isaiah 11:1.] His blooming flower shall be my Christ, upon whom hath rested, according to Isaiah, “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of piety, and of the fear of the Lord.” [Isaiah 11:2.] Now to no man, except Christ, would the diversity of spiritual proofs suitably apply. He is indeed like a flower for the Spirit’s grace, reckoned indeed of the stem of Jesse, but thence to derive His descent through Mary. Now I purposely demand of you, whether you grant to Him the destination of all this humiliation, and suffering, and tranquillity, from which He will be the Christ of Isaiah, — a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, who was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and who, like a lamb before the shearer, opened not His mouth; who did not struggle nor cry, nor was His voice heard in the street who broke not the bruised reed — that is, the shattered faith of the Jews — nor quenched the smoking flax — that is, the freshly-kindled ardor of the Gentiles.
He can be none other than the Man who was foretold. It is right that His conduct be investigated according to the rule of Scripture, distinguishable as it is unless I am mistaken, by the twofold operation of preaching and of miracle. But the treatment of both these topics I shall so arrange as to postpone, to the chapter wherein I have determined to discuss the actual gospel of Marcion, the consideration of His wonderful doctrines and miracles — with a view, however, to our present purpose. Let us here, then, in general terms complete the subject which we had entered upon, by indicating, as we pass on, how Christ was fore-announced by Isaiah as a preacher: “For who is there among you,” says he, “that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His Son?” And likewise as a healer: “For,” says he, “He hath taken away our infirmities, and carried our sorrows.” [Isaiah 53:4.]
On the subject of His death, I suppose, you endeavor to introduce a diversity of opinion, simply because you deny that the suffering of the cross was predicted of the Christ of the Creator, and because you contend, moreover, that it is not to be believed that the Creator would expose His Son to that kind of death on which He had Himself pronounced a curse. “Cursed,” says He, “is every one who hangeth on a tree.” [Deuteronomy 21:23.] But what is meant by this curse, worthy as it is of the simple prediction of the cross, of which we are now mainly inquiring, I defer to consider, because in another passage we have given the reason of the thing preceded by proof. First, I shall offer a full explanation of the types. And no doubt it was proper that this mystery should be prophetically set forth by types, and indeed chiefly by that method: for in proportion to its incredibility would it be a stumbling-block, if it were set forth in bare prophecy; and in proportion too, to its grandeur, was the need of obscuring it in shadow, that the difficulty of understanding it might lead to prayer for the grace of God.
First, then, Isaac, when he was given up by his father as an offering, himself carried the wood for his own death. By this act he even then was setting forth the death of Christ, who was destined by His Father as a sacrifice, and carried the cross whereon He suffered. Joseph likewise was a type of Christ, not indeed on this ground (that I may not delay my course), that he suffered persecution for the cause of God from his brethren, as Christ did from His brethren after the flesh, the Jews; but when he is blessed by his father in these words: “His glory is that of a bullock; his horns are the horns of a unicorn; with them shall he push the nations to the very ends of the earth,” — he was not, of course, designated as a mere unicorn with its one horn, or a minotaur with two; but Christ was indicated in him — a bullock in respect of both His characteristics: to some as severe as a Judge, to others gentle as a Savior, whose horns were the extremities of His cross.
For of the antenna, which is a part of a cross, the ends are called horns; while the midway stake of the whole frame is the unicorn. By this virtue, then, of His cross, and in this manner “horned,” He is both now pushing all nations through faith, bearing them away from earth to heaven; and will then push them through judgment, casting them down from heaven to earth. He will also, according to another passage in the same scripture, be a bullock, when He is spiritually interpreted to be Jacob against Simeon and Levi, which means against the scribes and the Pharisees; for it was from them that these last derived their origin. Like Simeon and Levi, they consummated their wickedness by their heresy, with which they persecuted Christ. “Into their counsel let not my soul enter; to their assembly let not my heart be united: for in their anger they slew men,” that is, the prophets; “and in their self-will they hacked the sinews of a bullock,” that is, of Christ. For against Him did they wreak their fury after they had slain His prophets, even by affixing Him with nails to the cross. Otherwise, it is an idle thing when, after slaying men, he inveighs against them for the torture of a bullock!
Again, in the case of Moses, wherefore did he at that moment particularly, when Joshua was fighting Amalek, pray in a sitting posture with outstretched hands, when in such a conflict it would surely have been more seemly to have bent the knee, and smitten the breast, and to have fallen on the face to the ground, and in such prostration to have offered prayer? Wherefore, but because in a battle fought in the name of that Lord who was one day to fight against the devil, the shape was necessary of that very cross through which Jesus was to win the victory? Why, once more, did the same Moses, after prohibiting the likeness of everything, set up the golden serpent on the pole; and as it hung there, propose it as an object to be looked at for a cure? Did he not here also intend to show the power of our Lord’s cross, whereby that old serpent the devil was vanquished, — whereby also to every man who was bitten by spiritual serpents, but who yet turned with an eye of faith to it, was proclaimed a cure from the bite of sin, and health for evermore?
Come now, when you read in the words of David, how that “the Lord reigneth from the tree,” I want to know what you understand by it. Perhaps you think some wooden king of the Jews is meant! — and not Christ, who overcame death by His suffering on the cross, and thence reigned! Now, although death reigned from Adam even to Christ, why may not Christ be said to have reigned from the tree, from His having shut up the kingdom of death by dying upon the tree of His cross? Likewise Isaiah also says: “For unto us a child is born.” [Isaiah 9:6.] But what is there unusual in this, unless he speaks of the Son of God? “To us is given He whose government is upon His shoulder.” Now, what king is there who bears the ensign of his dominion upon his shoulder, and not rather upon his head as a diadem, or in his hand as a scepter, or else as a mark in some royal apparel? But the one new King of the new ages, Jesus Christ, carried on His shoulder both the power and the excellence of His new glory, even His cross; so that, according to our former prophecy, He might thenceforth reign from the tree as Lord.
This tree it is which Jeremiah likewise gives you intimation of, when he prophesies to the Jews, who should say, “Come, let us destroy the tree with the fruit, (the bread) thereof,” that is, His body. For so did God in your own gospel even reveal the sense, when He called His body bread; so that, for the time to come, you may understand that He has given to His body the figure of bread, whose body the prophet of old figuratively turned into bread, the Lord Himself designing to give by and by an interpretation of the mystery. If you require still further prediction of the Lord’s cross, the twenty-first  Psalm is sufficiently able to afford it to you, containing as it does the entire passion of Christ, who was even then prophetically declaring His glory. “They pierced,” says He, “my hands and my feet,” which is the special cruelty of the cross. And again, when He implores His Father’s help, He says, “Save me from the lion’s mouth,” that is, the jaws of death, “and my humiliation from the horns of the unicorns;” in other words, from the extremities of the cross, as we have shown above.
Now, David himself did not suffer this cross, nor did any other king of the Jews; so that you cannot suppose that this is the prophecy of any other’s passion than His who alone was so notably crucified by the nation. Now should the heretics, in their obstinacy, reject and despise all these interpretations, I will grant to them that the Creator has given us no signs of the cross of His Christ; but they will not prove from this concession that He who was crucified was another (Christ), unless they could somehow show that this death was predicted as His by their own God, so that from the diversity of predictions there might be maintained to be a diversity of sufferers, and thereby also a diversity of persons. But since there is no prophecy of even Marcion’s Christ, much less of his cross, it is enough for my Christ that there is a prophecy merely of death. For, from the fact that the kind of death is not declared, it was possible for the death of the cross to have been still intended, which would then have to be assigned to another (Christ), if the prophecy had reference to another.
Besides, if he should be unwilling to allow that the death of my Christ was predicted, his confusion must be the greater if he announces that his own Christ indeed died, whom he denies to have had a nativity, whilst denying that my Christ is mortal, though he allows Him to be capable of birth. However, I will show him the death, and burial, and resurrection of my Christ all indicated in a single sentence of Isaiah, who says, “His sepulture was removed from the midst of them.” Now there could have been no sepulture without death, and no removal of sepulture except by resurrection. Then, finally, he added: “Therefore He shall have many for his inheritance, and He shall divide the spoil of the many, because He poured out His soul unto death.” For there is here set forth the cause of this favor to Him, even that it was to recompense Him for His suffering of death. It was equally shown that He was to obtain this recompense for His death, was certainly to obtain it after His death by means of the resurrection.
It is sufficient for my purpose to have traced thus far the course of Christ’s dispensation in these particulars. This has proved Him to be such a one as prophecy announced He should be, so that He ought not to be regarded in any other character than that which prediction assigned to Him; and the result of this agreement between the facts of His course and the Scriptures of the Creator should be the restoration of belief in them from that prejudice which has, by contributing to diversity of opinion, either thrown doubt upon, or led to a denial of, a considerable part of them And now we go further and build up the superstructure of those kindred events out of the Scriptures of the Creator which were predicted and destined to happen after Christ. For the dispensation would not be found complete, if He had not come after whom it had to run on its course. Look at all nations from the vortex of human error emerging out of it up to the Divine Creator, the Divine Christ, and deny Him to be the object of prophecy, if you dare. At once there will occur to you the Father’s promise in the Psalms: “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession.” [Psalm 2:7-8.]
You will not be able to put in a claim for some son of David being here meant, rather than Christ; or for the ends of the earth being promised to David, whose kingdom was confined to the Jewish nation simply, rather than to Christ, who now embraces the whole world in the faith of His gospel. So again He says by Isaiah: “I have given Thee for a dispensation of the people, for a light of the Gentiles, to open the eyes of the blind,” [Isaiah 42:6-7] that is, those that be in error, “to bring out the prisoners from the prison,” that is, to free them from sin, “and from the prison-house,” that is, of death, “those that sit in darkness” — even that of ignorance. If these things are accomplished through Christ, they would not have been designed in prophecy for any other than Him through whom they have their accomplishment.
In another passage He also says: “Behold, I have set Him as a testimony to the nations, a prince and commander to the nations; nations which know Thee not shall invoke Thee, and peoples shall run together unto Thee.” [Isaiah 55:4-5.] You will not interpret these words of David, because He previously said, “I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” [Isaiah 55:3.] Indeed, you will be obliged from these words all the more to understand that Christ is reckoned to spring from David by carnal descent, by reason of His birth of the Virgin Mary. Touching this promise of Him, there is the oath to David in the psalm, “Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.” [Psalm 132:11.] What body is meant? David’s own? Certainly not. For David was not to give birth to a son. Nor his wife’s either. For instead of saying, “Of the fruit of thy body,” he would then have rather said, “Of the fruit of thy wife’s body.” But by mentioning his body, it follows that He pointed to some one of his race of whose body the flesh of Christ was to be the fruit, which bloomed forth from Mary’s womb.
He named the fruit of the body (womb) alone, because it was peculiarly fruit of the womb, of the womb only in fact, and not of the husband also; and he refers the womb (body) to David, as to the chief of the race and father of the family. Because it could not consist with a virgin’s condition to consort her with a husband, He therefore attributed the body (womb) to the father. That new dispensation, then, which is found in Christ now, will prove to be what the Creator then promised under the appellation of “the sure mercies of David,” which were Christ’s, inasmuch as Christ sprang from David, or rather His very flesh itself was David’s “sure mercies,” consecrated by religion, and “sure” after its resurrection. Accordingly the prophet Nathan, in the first of Kings, makes a promise to David for his seed, “which shall proceed,” says he, “out of thy bowels.” [2 Samuel 7:12.] Now, if you explain this simply of Solomon, you will send me into a fit of laughter. For David will evidently have brought forth Solomon!
But is not Christ here designated the seed of David, as of that womb which was derived from David, that is, Mary’s? Now, because Christ rather than any other was to build the temple of God, that is to say, a holy manhood, wherein God’s Spirit might dwell as in a better temple, Christ rather than David’s son Solomon was to be looked for as the Son of God. Then, again, the throne for ever with the kingdom for ever is more suited to Christ than to Solomon, a mere temporal king. From Christ, too, God’s mercy did not depart, whereas on Solomon even God’s anger alighted, after his luxury and idolatry. For Satan stirred up an Edomite as an enemy against him. Since, therefore, nothing of these things is compatible with Solomon, but only with Christ, the method of our interpretations will certainly be true; and the very issue of the facts shows that they were clearly predicted of Christ. And so in Him we shall have “the sure mercies of David.” Him, not David, has God appointed for a testimony to the nations; Him, for a prince and commander to the nations, not David, who ruled over Israel alone. It is Christ whom all nations now invoke, which knew Him not; Christ to whom all races now betake themselves, whom they were ignorant of before. It is impossible that should be said to be future, which you see (daily) coming to pass.
So you cannot get out of this notion of yours a basis for your difference between the two Christs, as if the Jewish Christ were ordained by the Creator for the restoration of the people alone from its dispersion, whilst yours was appointed by the supremely good God for the liberation of the whole human race. Because, after all, the earliest Christians are found on the side of the Creator, not of Marcion, all nations being called to His kingdom, from the fact that God set up that kingdom from the tree (of the cross), when no Cerdon was yet born, much less a Marcion. However, when you are refuted on the call of the nations, you betake yourself to proselytes. You ask, who among the nations can turn to the Creator, when those whom the prophet names are proselytes of individually different and private condition? “Behold,” says Isaiah, “the proselytes shall come unto me through Thee,” showing that they were even proselytes who were to find their way to God through Christ. But nations (Gentiles) also, like ourselves, had likewise their mention (by the prophet) as trusting in Christ. “And in His name,” says he, “shall the Gentiles trust.”
Besides, the proselytes whom you substitute for the nations in prophecy, are not in the habit of trusting in Christ’s name, but in the dispensation of Moses, from whom comes their instruction. But it was in the last days that the choice of the nations had its commencement. In these very words Isaiah says: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord,” that is, God’s eminence, “and the house of God,” that is, Christ, the Catholic temple of God, in which God is worshipped, “shall be established upon the mountains,” [Isaiah 2:2] over all the eminences of virtues and powers; “and all nations shall come unto it; and many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us His way, and we will walk in it: for out of Sion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” [Isaiah 2:3.] The gospel will be this “way,” of the new law and the new word in Christ, no longer in Moses. “And He shall judge among the nations,” even concerning their error. “And these shall rebuke a large nation,” that of the Jews themselves and their proselytes.
“And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks;” in other words, they shall change into pursuits of moderation and peace the dispositions of injurious minds, and hostile tongues, and all kinds of evil, and blasphemy. “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,” shall not stir up discord. “Neither shall they learn war any more,” that is, the provocation of hostilities; so that you here learn that Christ is promised not as powerful in war, but pursuing peace. Now you must deny either that these things were predicted, although they are plainly seen, or that they have been accomplished, although you read of them; else, if you cannot deny either one fact or the other, they must have been accomplished in Him of whom they were predicted. For look at the entire course of His call up to the present time from its beginning, how it is addressed to the nations (Gentiles) who are in these last days approaching to God the Creator, and not to proselytes, whose election was rather an event of the earliest days. Verily the apostles have annulled that belief of yours.
You have the work of the apostles also predicted: “How beautiful are the feet of them which preach the gospel of peace, which bring good tidings of good,” [Isaiah 52:7] not of war nor evil tidings. In response to which is the psalm, “Their sound is gone through all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world;” [Psalm 19:4] that is, the words of them who carry round about the law that proceeded from Sion and the Lord’s word from Jerusalem, in order that that might come to pass which was written: “They who were far from my righteousness, have come near to my righteousness and truth.” When the apostles girded their loins for this business, they renounced the elders and rulers and priests of the Jews. Well, says he, but was it not above all things that they might preach the other god? Rather (that they might preach) that very selfsame God, whose scripture they were with all their might fulfilling! “Depart ye, depart ye,” exclaims Isaiah; “go ye out from thence, and touch not the unclean thing,” [Isaiah 52:11] that is blasphemy against Christ; “Go ye out of the midst of her,” even of the synagogue. “Be ye separate who bear the vessels of the Lord.”
For already had the Lord, according to the preceding words (of the prophet), revealed His Holy One with His arm, that is to say, Christ by His mighty power, in the eyes of the nations, so that all the nations and the utmost parts of the earth have seen the salvation, which was from God. By thus departing from Judaism itself, when they exchanged the obligations and burdens of the law for the liberty of the gospel, they were fulfilling the psalm, “Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast away their yoke from us;” [Psalm 2:3] and this indeed (they did) after that “the heathen raged, and the people imagined vain devices;” after that “the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers took their counsel together against the Lord, and against His Christ.” What did the apostles thereupon suffer? You answer: Every sort of iniquitous persecutions, from men that belonged indeed to that Creator who was the adversary of Him whom they were preaching. Then why does the Creator, if an adversary of Christ, not only predict that the apostles should incur this suffering, but even express His displeasure thereat? For He ought neither to predict the course of the other god, whom, as you contend, He knew not, nor to have expressed displeasure at that which He had taken care to bring about. “See how the righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart; and how merciful men are taken away, and no man considereth. For the righteous man has been removed from the evil person.” Who is this but Christ? “Come, say they, let us take away the righteous, because He is not for our turn, (and He is clean contrary to our doings).”
Premising, therefore, and likewise subjoining the fact that Christ suffered, He foretold that His just ones should suffer equally with Him — both the apostles and all the faithful in succession; and He signed them with that very seal of which Ezekiel spake: “The Lord said unto me, Go through the gate, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set the mark Tau upon the foreheads of the men.” [Ezekiel 9:4.] Now the Greek letter Tau and our own letter T is the very form of the cross, which He predicted would be the sign on our foreheads in the true Catholic Jerusalem, in which, according to the twenty-first Psalm, the brethren of Christ or children of God would ascribe glory to God the Father, in the person of Christ Himself addressing His Father; “I will declare Thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I sing praise unto Thee.” [Psalm 22:22.] For that which had to come to pass in our day in His name, and by His Spirit, He rightly foretold would be of Him. And a little afterwards He says: “My praise shall be of Thee in the great congregation.”
In the sixty-seventh Psalm He says again: “In the congregations bless ye the Lord God.” So that with this agrees also the prophecy of Malachi: “I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord; neither will I accept your offerings: for from the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place sacrifice shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering” [Malachi 1:11] — such as the ascription of glory, and blessing, and praise, and hymns. Now, inasmuch as all these things are also found amongst you, and the sign upon the forehead, and the sacraments of the church, and the offerings of the pure sacrifice, you ought now to burst forth, and declare that the Spirit of the Creator prophesied of your Christ.
Now, since you join the Jews in denying that their Christ has come, recollect also what is that end which they were predicted as about to bring on themselves after the time of Christ, for the impiety wherewith they both rejected and slew Him. For it began to come to pass from that day, when, according to Isaiah, “a man threw away his idols of gold and of silver, which they made into useless and hurtful objects of worship;” in other words, from the time when he threw away his idols after the truth had been made clear by Christ. Consider whether what follows in the prophet has not received its fulfillment: “The Lord of hosts hath taken away from Judah and from Jerusalem, amongst other things, both the prophet and the wise artificer;” that is, His Holy Spirit, who builds the church, which is indeed the temple, and household and city of God. For thenceforth God’s grace failed amongst them; and “the clouds were commanded to rain no rain upon the vineyard” [Isaiah 5:6] of Sorech; to withhold, that is, the graces of heaven, that they shed no blessing upon “the house of Israel,” which had but produced “the thorns” wherewith it had crowned the Lord, and “instead of righteousness, the cry” wherewith it had hurried Him away to the cross. And so in this manner the law and the prophets were until John, but the dews of divine grace were withdrawn from the nation.
After his time their madness still continued, and the name of the Lord was blasphemed by them, as saith the Scripture: “Because of you my name is continually blasphemed amongst the nations” (for from them did the blasphemy originate); neither in the interval from Tiberius to Vespasian did they learn repentance. Therefore “has their land become desolate, their cities are burnt with fire, their country strangers are devouring before their own eyes; the daughter of Sion has been deserted like a cottage in a vineyard, or a lodge in a garden of cucumbers,” [Isaiah 1:7-8] ever since the time when “Israel acknowledged not the Lord, and the people understood Him not, but forsook Him, and provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger.” So likewise that conditional threat of the sword, “If ye refuse and hear me not, the sword shall devour you,” has proved that it was Christ, for rebellion against whom they have perished. In the fifty-eighth Psalm He demands of the Father their dispersion: “Scatter them in Thy power.” By Isaiah He also says, as He finishes a prophecy of their consumption by fire: “Because of me has this happened to you; ye shall lie down in sorrow.” But all this would be unmeaning enough, if they suffered this retribution not on account of Him, who had in prophecy assigned their suffering to His own cause, but for the sake of the Christ of the other god.
Well, then, although you affirm that it is the Christ of the other god who was driven to the cross by the powers and authorities of the Creator, as it were by hostile beings, still I have to say, See how manifestly He was defended by the Creator: there were given to Him both “the wicked for His burial,” even those who had strenuously maintained that His corpse had been stolen, “and the rich for His death,” even those who had redeemed Him from the treachery of Judas, as well as from the lying report of the soldiers that His body had been taken away. Therefore these things either did not happen to the Jews on His account, in which case you will be refuted by the sense of the Scriptures tallying with the issue of the facts and the order of the times, or else they did happen on His account, and then the Creator could not have inflicted the vengeance except for His own Christ; nay, He must have rather had a reward for Judas, if it had been his master’s enemy whom they put to death.
At all events, if the Creator’s Christ has not come yet, on whose account the prophecy dooms them to such sufferings, they will have to endure the sufferings when He shall have come. Then where will there be a daughter of Sion to be reduced to desolation, for there is none now to be found? Where will there be cities to be burnt with fire, for they are now in heaps? Where a nation to be dispersed, which is already in banishment? Restore to Judaea its former state, that the Creator’s Christ may find it, and then you may contend that another Christ has come. But then, again, how is it that He can have permitted to range through His own heaven one whom He was some day to put to death on His own earth, after the more noble and glorious region of His kingdom had been violated, and His own very palace and sublimest height had been trodden by him? Or was it only in appearance rather that he did this? God is no doubt a jealous God! Yet he gained the victory. You should blush with shame, who put your faith in a vanquished god! What have you to hope for from him, who was not strong enough to protect himself? For it was either through his infirmity that he was crushed by the powers and human agents of the Creator, or else through maliciousness, in order that he might fasten so great a stigma on them by his endurance of their wickedness.
Yes, certainly, you say, I do hope from Him that which amounts in itself to a proof of the diversity (of Christs), God’s kingdom in an everlasting and heavenly possession. Besides, your Christ promises to the Jews their primitive condition, with the recovery of their country; and after this life’s course is over, repose in Hades in Abraham’s bosom. Oh, most excellent God, when He restores in amnesty what He took away in wrath! Oh, what a God is yours, who both wounds and heals, creates evil and makes peace! Oh, what a God, that is merciful even down to Hades! I shall have something to say about Abraham’s bosom in the proper place. As for the restoration of Judaea, however, which even the Jews themselves, induced by the names of places and countries, hope for just as it is described, it would be tedious to state at length how the figurative interpretation is spiritually applicable to Christ and His church, and to the character and fruits thereof; besides, the subject has been regularly treated in another work, which we entitle De Spe Fidelium.
At present, too, it would be superfluous for this reason, that our inquiry relates to what is promised in heaven, not on earth. But we do confess that a kingdom is promised to us upon the earth, although before heaven, only in another state of existence; inasmuch as it will be after the resurrection for a thousand years in the divinely-built city of Jerusalem, “let down from heaven,” [Revelation 21:10] which the apostle also calls “our mother from above;” and, while declaring that our politeuma, or citizenship, is in heaven, he predicates of it that it is really a city in heaven. This both Ezekiel had knowledge of and the Apostle John beheld. And the word of the new prophecy which is a part of our belief, attests how it foretold that there would be for a sign a picture of this very city exhibited to view previous to its manifestation.
This prophecy, indeed, has been very lately fulfilled in an expedition to the East. For it is evident from the testimony of even heathen witnesses, that in Judaea there was suspended in the sky a city early every morning for forty days. As the day advanced, the entire figure of its walls would wane gradually, and sometimes it would vanish instantly. We say that this city has been provided by God for receiving the saints on their resurrection, and refreshing them with the abundance of all really spiritual blessings, as a recompense for those which in the world we have either despised or lost; since it is both just and God-worthy that His servants should have their joy in the place where they have also suffered affliction for His name’s sake. Of the heavenly kingdom this is the process. After its thousand years are over, within which period is completed the resurrection of the saints, who rise sooner or later according to their deserts there will ensue the destruction of the world and the conflagration of all things at the judgment: we shall then be changed in a moment into the substance of angels, even by the investiture of an incorruptible nature, and so be removed to that kingdom in heaven of which we have now been treating, just as if it had not been predicted by the Creator, and as if it were proving Christ to belong to the other god and as if he were the first and sole revealer of it.
But now learn that it has been, in fact, predicted by the Creator, and that even without prediction it has a claim upon our faith in respect of the Creator. What appears to be probable to you, when Abraham’s seed, after the primal promise of being like the sand of the sea for multitude, is destined likewise to an equality with the stars of heaven — are not these the indications both of an earthly and a heavenly dispensation? When Isaac, in blessing his son Jacob, says, “God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth,” [Genesis 27:28] are there not in his words examples of both kinds of blessing? Indeed, the very form of the blessing is in this instance worthy of notice. For in relation to Jacob, who is the type of the later and more excellent people, that is to say ourselves, first comes the promise of the heavenly dew, and afterwards that about the fatness of the earth. So are we first invited to heavenly blessings when we are separated from the world, and afterwards we thus find ourselves in the way of obtaining also earthly blessings. And your own gospel likewise has it in this wise: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and these things shall be added unto you.”
But to Esau the blessing promised is an earthly one, which he supplements with a heavenly, after the fatness of the earth, saying, “Thy dwelling shall be also of the dew of heaven.” For the dispensation of the Jews (who were in Esau, the prior of the sons in birth, but the later in affection) at first was imbued with earthly blessings through the law, and afterwards brought round to heavenly ones through the gospel by faith. When Jacob sees in his dream the steps of a ladder set upon the earth, and reaching to heaven, with angels ascending and descending thereon, and the Lord standing above, we shall without hesitation venture to suppose, that by this ladder the Lord has in judgment appointed that the way to heaven is shown to men, whereby some may attain to it, and others fall therefrom. For why, as soon as he awoke out of his sleep, and shook through a dread of the spot, does he fall to an interpretation of his dream? He exclaims, “How terrible is this place!” And then adds, “This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven!” [Genesis 28:17.] For he had seen Christ the Lord, the temple of God, and also the gate by whom heaven is entered. Now surely he would not have mentioned the gate of heaven, if heaven is not entered in the dispensation of the Creator.
But there is now a gate provided by Christ, which admits and conducts to glory. Of this Amos says: “He buildeth His ascensions into heaven;” [Amos 9:6] certainly not for Himself alone, but for His people also, who will be with Him. “And Thou shalt bind them about Thee,” says he, “like the adornment of a bride.” Accordingly the Spirit, admiring such as soar up to the celestial realms by these ascensions, says, “They fly, as if they were kites; they fly as clouds, and as young doves, unto me” — that is, simply like a dove. For we shall, according to the apostle, be caught up into the clouds to meet the Lord (even the Son of man, who shall come in the clouds, according to Daniel and so shall we ever be with the Lord, so long as He remains both on the earth and in heaven, who, against such as are thankless for both one promise and the other, calls the elements themselves to witness: “Hear, O heaven, and give ear, O earth.” [Isaiah 1:2.]
Now, for my own part indeed, even though Scripture held out no hand of heavenly hope to me (as, in fact, it so often does), I should still possess a sufficient presumption of even this promise, in my present enjoyment of the earthly gift; and I should look out for something also of the heavenly, from Him who is the God of heaven as well as of earth. I should thus believe that the Christ who promises the higher blessings is (the Son) of Him who had also promised the lower ones; who had, moreover, afforded proofs of greater gifts by smaller ones; who had reserved for His Christ alone this revelation of a (perhaps) unheard of kingdom, so that, while the earthly glory was announced by His servants, the heavenly might have God Himself for its messenger.
You, however, argue for another Christ, from the very circumstance that He proclaims a new kingdom. You ought first to bring forward some example of His beneficence, that I may have no good reason for doubting the credibility of the great promise, which you say ought to be hoped for; nay, it is before all things necessary that you should prove that a heaven belongs to Him, whom you declare to be a promiser of heavenly things. As it is, you invite us to dinner, but do not point out your house; you assert a kingdom, but show us no royal state. Can it be that your Christ promises a kingdom of heaven, without having a heaven; as He displayed Himself man, without having flesh? O what a phantom from first to last! O hollow pretense of a mighty promise!