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(The Five Books against Marcion, Vol III, ANF)



    Chapter XXII.-The Same Conclusion Supported by the Transfiguration. Marcion Inconsistent in Associating with Christ in Glory Two Such Eminent Servants of the Creator as Moses and Elijah. St. Peter's Ignorance Accounted for on Montanist Principle.

You ought to be very much ashamed of yourself on this account too, for permitting him to appear on the retired mountain in the company of Moses and Elias,837 whom he had come to destroy. This, to be sure,838 was what he wished to be understood as the meaning of that voice from heaven: "This is my beloved Son, hear Him"839 -Him, that is, not Moses or Elias any longer. The voice alone, therefore, was enough, without the display of Moses and Elias; for, by expressly mentioning whom they were to hear, he must have forbidden all840 others from being heard. Or else, did he mean that Isaiah and Jeremiah and the others whom he did not exhibit were to be heard, since he prohibited those whom he did display? Now, even if their presence was necessary, they surely should not be represented as conversing together, which is a sign of familiarity; nor as associated in glory with him, for this indicates respect and graciousness; but they should be shown in some slough841 as a sure token of their ruin, or even in that darkness of the Creator which Christ was sent to disperse, far removed from the glory of Him who was about to sever their words and writings from His gospel. This, then, is the way842 how he demonstrates them to be aliens,843 even by keeping them in his own company! This is how he shows they ought to be relinquished: he associates them with himself instead! This is how he destroys them: he irradiates them with his glory! How would their own Christ act? I suppose He would have imitated the frowardness (of heresy),844 and revealed them just as Marcion's Christ was bound to do, or at least as having with Him any others rather than His own prophets! But what could so well befit the Creator's Christ, as to manifest Him in the company of His own foreannouncers?845 -to let Him be seen with those to whom He had appeared in revelations?-to let Him be speaking with those who had spoken of Him?-to share His glory with those by whom He used to be called the Lord of glory; even with those chief servants of His, one of whom was once the moulder846 of His people, the other afterwards the reformer847 thereof; one the initiator of the Old Testament, the other the consummator848 of the New? Well therefore does Peter, when recognizing the companions of his Christ in their indissoluble connection with Him, suggest an expedient: "It is good for us to be here" (good: that evidently means to be where Moses and Elias are); "and let us make three tabernacles, one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. But he knew not what he said."849 How knew not? Was his ignorance the result of simple error? Or was it on the principle which we maintain850 in the cause of the new prophecy,851 that to grace ecstasy or rapture852 is incident. For when a man is rapt in the Spirit, especially when he beholds the glory of God, or when God speaks through him, he necessarily loses his sensation,853 because he is overshadowed with the power of God,-a point concerning which there is a question between us and the carnally-minded.854 Now, it is no difficult matter to prove the rapture855 of Peter. For how could he have known Moses and Elias, except (by being) in the Spirit? People could not have had their images, or statues, or likenesses; for that the law forbade. How, if it were not that he had seen them in the Spirit? And therefore, because it was in the Spirit that he had now spoken, and not in his natural senses, he could not know what he had said. But if, on the other hand,856 he was thus ignorant, because he erroneously supposed that (Jesus) was their Christ, it is then evident that Peter, when previously asked by Christ, "Whom they thought Him to be," meant the Creator's Christ, when he answered, "Thou art the Christ; "because if he had been then aware that He belonged to the rival god, he would not have made a mistake here. But if he was in error here because of his previous erroneous opinion,857 then you may be sure that up to that very day no new divinity had been revealed by Christ, and that Peter had so far made no mistake, because hitherto Christ had revealed nothing of the kind; and that Christ accordingly was not to be regarded as belonging to any other than the Creator, whose entire dispensation858 he, in fact, here described. He selects from His disciples three witnesses of the impending vision and voice. And this is just the way of the Creator. "In the mouth of three witnesses," says He, "shall every word be established."859 He withdraws to a mountain. In the nature of the place I see much meaning. For the Creator had originally formed His ancient people on a mountain both with visible glory and His voice. It was only tight that the New Testament should be attested860 on such an elevated spot861 as that whereon the Old Testament had been composed;862 under a like covering of cloud also, which nobody will doubt, was condensed out of the Creator's air. Unless, indeed, he863 had brought down his own clouds thither, because he had himself forced his way through the Creator's heaven;864 or else it was only a precarious cloud,865 as it were, of the Creator which he used. On the present (as also on the former)866 occasion, therefore, the cloud was not silent; but there was the accustomed voice from heaven, and the Father's testimony to the Son; precisely as in the first Psalm He had said, "Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee."867 By the mouth of Isaiah also He had asked concerning Him, "Who is there among you that feareth God? Let him hear the voice of His Son."868 When therefore He here presents Him with the words, "This is my (beloved) Son," this clause is of course understood, "whom I have promised." For if He once promised, and then afterwards says, "This is He," it is suitable conduct for one who accomplishes His purpose869 that He should utter His voice in proof of the promise which He had formerly made; but unsuitable in one who is amenable to the retort, Can you, indeed, have a right to say, "This is my son," concerning whom you have given us no previous information,870 any more than you have favoured us with a revelation about your own prior existence? "Hear ye Him," therefore, whom from the beginning (the Creator) had declared entitled to be heard in the name of a prophet, since it was as a prophet that He had to be regarded by the people. "A prophet," says Moses, "shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, of your sons" (that is, of course, after a carnal descent871 ); "unto Him shall ye hearken, as unto me."872 "Every one who will not hearken unto Him, his soul873 shall be cut off from amongst his people."874 , So also Isaiah: "Who is there among you that feareth God? Let him hear the voice of His Son."875 This voice the Father was going Himself to recommend. For, says he,876 He establishes the words of His Son, when He says, "This is my beloved Son, hear ye Him." Therefore, even if there be made a transfer of the obedient "heating" from Moses and Elias to877 Christ, it is still not from878 another God, or to another Christ; but from" the Creator to His Christ, in consequence of the departure of the old covenant and the supervening of the new. "Not an ambassador, nor an angel, but He Himself," says Isaiah, "shall save them; "879 for it is He Himself who is now declaring and fulfilling the law and the prophets. The Father gave to the Son new disciples,880 after that Moses and Elias had been exhibited along with Him in the honour of His glory, and had then been dismissed as having fully discharged their duty and office, for the express purpose of affirming for Marcion's information the fact that Moses and Elias had a share in even the glory of Christ. But we have the entire structure881 of this same vision in Habakkuk also, where the Spirit in the person of some882 of the apostles says, "O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid." What speech was this, other than the words of the voice from heaven, This is my beloved Son, hear ye, Him? "I considered thy works, and was astonished." When could this have better happened than when Peter, on seeing His glory, knew not what he was saying? "In the midst of the two Thou shalt be known"-even Moses and Elias.883 These likewise did Zechariah see under the figure of the two olive trees and olive branches.884 For these are they of whom he says, "They are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." And again Habakkuk says, "His glory covered the heavens" (that is, with that cloud), "and His splendour shall be like the light-even the light, wherewith His very raiment glistened." And if we would make mention of885 the promise to Moses, we shall find it accomplished here. For when Moses desired to see the Lord, saying, "If therefore I have found grace in Thy sight, manifest Thyself to me, that I may see Thee distinctly,"886 the sight which he desired to have was of that condition which he was to assume as man, and which as a prophet he knew was to occur. Respecting the face of God, however, he had already heard, "No man shall see me, and live." "This thing," said He, "which thou hast spoken, will I do unto thee." Then Moses said, "Show me Thy glory." And the Lord, with like reference to the future, replied, "I will pass before thee in my glory," etc. Then at the last He says, "And then thou shall see my back."887 Not loins, or calves of the legs, did he want to behold, but the glory which was to be revealed in the latter days.888 He had promised that He would make Himself thus face to face visible to him, when He said to Aaron, "If there shall be a prophet among you, I will make myself known to him by vision, and by vision will I speak with him; but not so is my manner to Moses; with him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently" (that is to say, in the form of man which He was to assume), "and not in dark speeches."889 Now, although Marcion has denied890 that he is here represented as speaking with the Lord, but only as standing, yet, inasmuch as he stood "mouth to mouth," he must also have stood "face to face" with him, to use his words,891 not far from him, in His very glory-not to say,892 in His presence. And with this glory he went away enlightened from Christ, just as he used to do from the Creator; as then to dazzle the eyes of the children of Israel, so now to smite those of the blinded Marcion, who has failed to see how this argument also makes against him.


837 Luke ix. 28-36.

838 Scilicet, in ironical allusion to a Marcionite opinion.

839 Luke ix. 35.

840 Quoscunque.

841 In sordibus aliquibus.

842 Sic.

843 To belong to another god.

844 Secundum perversitatem.

845 Praedicatores.

846 Informator, Moses, as having organized the nation.

847 Reformator, Elias, the great prophet.

848 It was a primitive opinion in the Church that Elijah was to come, with Enoch, at the end of the world. See De Anima, chap. xxxv. and l.; also Irenaeus, De Hoeres. v. 5. [Vol. I. 530.]

849 Luke ix. 33.

850 This Tertullian seems to have done in his treatise De Ecstasi, which is mentioned by St. Jerome-see his Catalogus Scriptt. Eccles. (in Tertulliano); and by Nicephorus, Hist. Eccles. iv. 22, 34. On this subject of ecstasy, Tertullian has some observations in De Anima, chap. xxi. and xlv. (Rigalt. and Oehler.)

851 [Elucidation VII.]

852 Amentiam.

853 Excidat sensu.

854 He calls those the carnally-minded ("psychicos") who thought that ecstatic raptures and revelations had ceased in the church. The term arises from a perverse application of 1 Cor. ii. 14: yuxiko\j de\ a!nqrwpoj ou0 de/xetai ta\tou= Pneu/matoj tou= Qeou=. In opposition to the wild fanaticism of Montanus, into which Tertullian strangely fell, the Catholics believed that the true prophets, who were filled with the Spirit of God, discharged their prophetic functions with a quiet and tranquil mind. See the anonymous author, Contra Cataphrygas, in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. v. 17; Epiphanius, Hoeres. 48. See also Routh, Rell. Sacrae, i. p. 100; and Bp. Kaye, On the Writings of Tertullian, etc. 3. pp. 27-36. (Munter's Primord. Eccles Afric. p. 138, quoted by Oehler.)

855 Amentiam.

856 Ceterum.

857 According to the hypothesis.

858 Totum ordinem, in the three periods represented by Moses, and Elijah, and Christ.

859 Compare Deut. xix. 15 with Luke ix. 28.

860 Consignari.

861 In eo suggestu.

862 Conscriptum fuerat.

863 Marcion's god.

864 Compare above, book i. chap. 15, and book iv. chap. 7.

865 Precario. This word is used in book v. chap.xii. to describe the transitoriness of the Creator's paradise and world.

866 Nec nunc.

867 Ps. ii. 7.

868 Isa. l. 10, according to the Septuagint.

869 Ejus est exhibentis.

870 Non praemisisti. Oehler suggests promisisti, "have given us no promise."

871 Censum: Some read sensum, "sense."

872 Deut. xviii. 15.

873 Anima: life.

874 Deut. xviii. 19.

875 Isa. l. 10.

876 Tertullian, by introducing this statement with an "inquit," seems to make a quotation of it; but it is only a comment on the actual quotations. Tertullian's invariable object in this argument is to march some event or word pertaining to the Christ of the New Testament with some declaration of the Old Testament. In this instance the approving words of God upon the mount are in Heb. i. 5 applied to the Son, while in Ps. ii. 7 the Son applies them to Himself. Compare the Adversus Praxean, chap. xix. (Fr. Junius and Oehler.) It is, however, more likely that Tertullian really means to quote Isa. xliv. 26, "that confirmeth the word of His servant," which Tertullian reads, "Sistens verba filii sui," the Septuagint being, Kai\ i0stw=n r9h=ma paido\j au0tou=.

877 In Christo. In with an ablative is often used by our author for in with an accusative.

878 Or perhaps "by the Creator."

879 Isa. lxiii. 9, according to the Septuagint; only he reads faciet for aorist e!swsen.

880 A Marcionite position.

881 Habitum.

882 Interdum.

883 Hab. iii. 2, according to the Septuagint. St. Augustine similarly applied this passage, De Vicit. Dei, ii. 32.

884 Zech. iv. 3, 14.

885 Commemoremur: be reminded, or call to mind.

886 Cognoscenter: gnwstw=j, "so as to know Thee."

887 See Ex. xxxiii. 13-23.

888 Posterioribus temporibus. [The awful ribaldry of Voltaire upon this glorious revelation is based apon the Vulgate reading of Exod. xxxiii. 23, needlessly transferred to our Version, but corrected by the late Revisers.]

889 Num. xii. 6-8.

890 Noluit.

891 It is difficult to see what this inquit means.

892 Nedum.