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“Tertullian on Marcion - Latin Texts with English translations”

from De Praescriptione Haereticorum, 30
and Adversus Marcionem, 1.19, 1.27, 3.8

In the first text Tertullian writes about Marcion's relationship with the Catholic Church,
and in the second he writes about Marcion's Antitheses, his understanding of God, and his understanding of Christ.

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Click here to read at earlychurchtexts.com in the original Latin (with dictionary lookup links). The English translation below is from the ANF series.

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Relevant books
available at Amazon

Studies

 

Eric Francis Osborn
Tertullian, First Theologian of the West

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Tertullian: A Historical and Literary Study
Timothy David Barnes

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Early Christian Thinkers: The Lives and Legacies of Twelve Key Figures
Paul Foster
(A helpful chapter)

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The Early Christian World
P.F. Esler, with a helpful chapter by David Wright

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Tertullian and the Church
David Rankin

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 Ancient Rhetoric and the Art of Tertullian (Oxford theological monographs)

Robert D. Sider

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David E. Wilhite

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Translations

 Tertullian (The Early Church Fathers)
Geoffrey D. Dunn

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 Disciplinary, Moral And Ascetical Works
R. Arbesmann, E.J. Daly, and E. A. Quain, eds.

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 Tertullian: Apologetical Works, & Minucius Felix: Octavius
Emily J. Daly, trans.

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 28. Tertullian: Treatises on Penance: On Penitence and On Purity (Ancient Christian Writers)
W.P. Le Saint, trans.

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 13. Tertullian: Treatises on Marriage and Remarriage: To His Wife, An Exhortation to Chastity, Monogamy (Ancient Christian Writers)
W.P. Le Saint, trans.

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 Christian and Pagan in the Roman Empire: The Witness of Tertullian (Selections from the Fathers of the Church)
Robert D. Sider, ed.

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 Tertullian, Cyprian, And Origen On The Lord's Prayer (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press Popular Patristics Series)
Alistair Stewart-Sykes, ed.

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 24. Tertullian: The Treatise against Hermogenes (Ancient Christian Writers)
J.H. Waszink, trans.

 

De Praescriptione Haereticorum,  30

Where was Marcion then, that shipmaster of Pontus, the zealous student of Stoicism? Where was Valentinus then, the disciple of Platonism? For it is evident that those men lived not so long ago,—in the reign of Antoninus for the most part, —and that they at first were believers in the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in the church of Rome under the episcopate of the blessed Eleutherus, until on account of their ever restless curiosity, with which they even infected the brethren, they were more than once expelled. Marcion, indeed, [went] with the two hundred sesterces which he had brought into the church, and, when banished at last to a permanent excommunication, they scattered abroad the poisons of their doctrines. Afterwards, it is true, Marcion professed repentance, and agreed to the conditions granted to him—that he should receive reconciliation if he restored to the church all the others whom he had been training for perdition: he was prevented, however, by death. It was indeed necessary that there should be heresies; and yet it does not follow from that necessity, that heresies are a good thing. As if it has not been necessary also that there should be evil! It was even necessary that the Lord should be betrayed; but woe to the traitor! So that no man may from this defend heresies. If we must likewise touch the descent of Apelles, he is far from being “one of the old school,” like his instructor and moulder, Marcion; he rather forsook the continence of Marcion, by resorting to the company of a woman, and withdrew to Alexandria, out of sight of his most abstemious master. Returning therefrom, after some years, unimproved, except that he was no longer a Marcionite, he clave to another woman, the maiden Philumene (whom we have already mentioned), who herself afterwards became an enormous prostitute. Having been imposed on by her vigorous spirit, he committed to writing the revelations which he had learned of her. Persons are still living who remember them,—their own actual disciples and successors,—who cannot therefore deny the lateness of their date. But, in fact, by their own works they are convicted, even as the Lord said. For since Marcion separated the New Testament from the Old, he is (necessarily) subsequent to that which he separated, inasmuch as it was only in his power to separate what was (previously) united. Having then been united previous to its separation, the fact of its subsequent separation proves the subsequence also of the man who effected the separation. In like manner Valentinus, by his different expositions and acknowledged emendations, makes these changes on the express ground of previous faultiness, and therefore demonstrates the difference of the documents. These corrupters of the truth we mention as being more notorious and more public than others. There is, however, a certain man named Nigidius, and Hermogenes, and several others, who still pursue the course of perverting the ways of the Lord. Let them show me by what authority they come! If it be some other God they preach, how comes it that they employ the things and the writings and the names of that God against whom they preach? If it be the same God, why treat Him in some other way? Let them prove themselves to be new apostles! Let them maintain that Christ has come down a second time, taught in person a second time, has been twice crucified, twice dead, twice raised! For thus has the apostle described (the order of events in the life of Christ); for thus, too, is He accustomed to make His apostles—to give them, (that is), power besides of working the same miracles which He worked Himself. I would therefore have their mighty deeds also brought forward; except that I allow their mightiest deed to be that by which they perversely vie with the apostles. For whilst they used to raise men to life from the dead, these consign men to death from their living state.

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Adversus Marcionem - Book 1, chapter 19 - Antitheses

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.

Book 1, chapter 27 - Marcion’s “God”

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 offence, 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 honour God; for your fear he does not want. And so satisfied are the Marcionites with such pretences, 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 theatre? 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.

Book 3, chapter 8 - Marcion’s understanding of Christ

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.” 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.
 



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