Sacred Texts  Christianity  Early Church Fathers  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 429 Book V.

Wherein Tertullian proves, with respect to St. Paul’s epistles, what he had proved in the preceding book with respect to St. Luke’s gospel. Far from being at variance, they were in perfect unison with the writings of the Old Testament, and therefore testified that the Creator was the only God, and that the Lord Jesus was his Christ. As in the preceding books, Tertullian supports his argument with profound reasoning, and many happy illustrations of Holy Scripture.


Chapter I.—Introductory. The Apostle Paul Himself Not the Preacher of a New God.  Called by Jesus Christ, Although After the Other Apostles, His Mission Was from the Creator. States How. The Argument, as in the Case of the Gospel, Confining Proofs to Such Portions of St. Paul’s Writings as Marcion Allowed.

There is nothing without a beginning but God alone. Now, inasmuch as the beginning occupies the first place in the condition of all things, so it must necessarily take precedence in the treatment of them, if a clear knowledge is to be arrived at concerning their condition; for you could not find the means of examining even the quality of anything, unless you were certain of its existence, and that after discovering its origin. 5192 Since therefore I am brought, in the course of my little work, to this point, 5193 I require to know of Marcion the origin of his apostle 5194 even—I, who am to some degree a new disciple, 5195 the follower of no other master; who at the same time 5196 can believe nothing, except that nothing ought to be believed hastily 5197 (and that I may further say is hastily believed, which is believed without any examination 5198 of its beginning); in short, I who have the best reason possible for bringing this inquiry to a most careful solution, 5199 since a man is affirmed to me to be an apostle whom I do not find mentioned in the Gospel in the catalogue 5200 of the apostles. Indeed, when I hear that this man was chosen by the Lord after He had attained His rest in heaven, I feel that a kind of improvidence is imputable to Christ, for not knowing before that this man was necessary to Him; and because He thought that he must be added to the apostolic body in the way of a fortuitous encounter 5201 rather than a deliberate selection; by necessity (so to speak), and not voluntary choice, although the members of the apostolate had been duly ordained, and were now dismissed to their several missions. Wherep. 430 fore, O shipmaster of Pontus, 5202 if you have never taken on board your small craft 5203 any contraband goods or smuggler’s cargo, if you have never thrown overboard or tampered with a freight, you are still more careful and conscientious, I doubt not, in divine things; and so I should be glad if you would inform us under what bill of lading 5204 you admitted the Apostle Paul on board, who ticketed him, 5205 what owner forwarded him, 5206 who handed him to you, 5207 that so you may land him without any misgiving, 5208 lest he should turn out to belong to him, 5209 who can substantiate his claim to him by producing all his apostolic writings. 5210 He professes himself to be “an apostle”—to use his own, words—“not of men, nor by man, but by Jesus Christ.” 5211 Of course, any one may make a profession concerning himself; but his profession is only rendered valid by the authority of a second person. One man signs, another countersigns; 5212 one man appends his seal, another registers in the public records. 5213 No one is at once a proposer and a seconder to himself. Besides, you have read, no doubt, that “many shall come, saying, I am Christ.” 5214 Now if any one can pretend that he is Christ, how much more might a man profess to be an apostle of Christ! But still, for my own part, I appear 5215 in the character of a disciple and an inquirer; that so I may even thus 5216 both refute your belief, who have nothing to support it, and confound your shamelessness, who make claims without possessing the means of establishing them. Let there be a Christ, let there be an apostle, although of another god; but what matter? since they are only to draw their proofs out of the Testament of the Creator. Because even the book of Genesis so long ago promised me the Apostle Paul. For among the types and prophetic blessings which he pronounced over his sons, Jacob, when he turned his attention to Benjamin, exclaimed, “Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall impart nourishment.” 5217 He foresaw that Paul would arise out of the tribe of Benjamin, a voracious wolf, devouring his prey in the morning: in order words, in the early period of his life he would devastate the Lord’s sheep, as a persecutor of the churches; but in the evening he would give them nourishment, which means that in his declining years he would educate the fold of Christ, as the teacher of the Gentiles. Then, again, in Saul’s conduct towards David, exhibited first in violent persecution of him, and then in remorse and reparation, 5218 on his receiving from him good for evil, we have nothing else than an anticipation 5219 of Paul in Saul—belonging, too, as they did, to the same tribe—and of Jesus in David, from whom He descended according to the Virgin’s genealogy. 5220 Should you, however, disapprove of these types, 5221 the Acts of the Apostles, 5222 at all events, have handed down to me this career of Paul, which you must not refuse to accept. Thence I demonstrate that from a persecutor he became “an apostle, not of men, neither by man;” 5223 thence am I led to believe the Apostle himself; thence do I find reason for rejecting your defence of him, 5224 and for bearing fearlessly your taunt.  “Then you deny the Apostle Paul.”  I do not calumniate him whom I defend. 5225 I deny him, to compel you to the proof of him. I deny him, to convince you that he is mine. If you have regard to our belief you should admit the particulars which comprise it. If you challenge us to your belief, (pray) tell us what things constitute its basis. 5226 Either prove the truth of what you believe, or failing in your proof, (tell us) how you believe. Else what conduct is yours, 5227 believing in opposition to Him from whom alone comes the proof of that which you believe? Take now from my point of view 5228 the apostle, in the same manner as you have received the Christ—the apostle shown to be as much mine as the Christ is. And here, too, we will fight within the same lines, and challenge our p. 431 adversary on the mere ground of a simple rule, 5229 that even an apostle who is said not to belong to the Creator—nay, is displayed as in actual hostility to the Creator—can be fairly regarded as teaching 5230 nothing, knowing nothing, wishing nothing in favour of the Creator whilst it would be a first principle with him to set forth 5231 another god with as much eagerness as he would use in withdrawing us from the law of the Creator. It is not at all likely that he would call men away from Judaism without showing them at the same time what was the god in whom he invited them to believe; because nobody could possibly pass from allegiance to the Creator without knowing to whom he had to cross over. For either Christ had already revealed another god—in which case the apostle’s testimony would also follow to the same effect, for fear of his not being else regarded 5232 as an apostle of the god whom Christ had revealed, and because of the impropriety of his being concealed by the apostle who had been already revealed by Christ—or Christ had made no such revelation concerning God; then there was all the greater need why the apostle should reveal a God who could now be made known by no one else, and who would undoubtedly be left without any belief at all, if he were revealed not even by an apostle. We have laid down this as our first principle, because we wish at once to profess that we shall pursue the same method here in the apostle’s case as we adopted before in Christ’s case, to prove that he proclaimed no new god; 5233 that is, we shall draw our evidence from the epistles of St. Paul himself. Now, the garbled form in which we have found the heretic’s Gospel will have already prepared us to expect to find 5234 the epistles also mutilated by him with like perverseness—and that even as respects their number. 5235



Cum cognoveris unde sit.




We have already more than once referred to Marcion’s preference for St. Paul. “The reason of the preference thus given to that apostle was his constant and strenuous opposition to the Judaizing Christians, who wished to reimpose the yoke of the Jewish ceremonies on the necks of their brethren.  This opposition the Marcionites wished to construe into a direct denial of the authority of the Mosaic law. They contended also from St. Paul’s assertion, that he received his appointment to the apostolic office not from man, but from Christ, that he alone delivered the genuine doctrines of the gospel. This deference for St. Paul accounts also for Marcion’s accepting St. Luke’s Gospel as the only authentic one, as we saw in the last book of this treatise; it was because that evangelist had been the companion of St. Paul” (Bp. Kaye, On the Writings of Tertullian, 3d edition, pp. 474–475).


Novus aliqui discipulus.








Ad sollicitudinem.


In albo.


Ex incursu: in allusion to St. Paul’s sudden conversion, Acts ix. 3-8. [On St. Paul’s Epistles, see p. 324, supra.]


Marcion is frequently called “Ponticus Nauclerus,” probably less on account of his own connection with a seafaring life, than that of his countrymen, who were great sailors.  Comp. book. i. 18. (sub fin.) and book iii. 6. [pp. 284, 325.]


In acatos tuas.


Quo symbolo.


Quis illum tituli charactere percusserit.


Quis transmiserit tibi.


Quis imposuerit.




Ne illius probetur, i.e., to the Catholic, for Marcion did not admit all St. Paul’s epistles (Semler).


Omnia apostolatus ejus instrumenta.


Gal. i. 1.




Actis refert.


Luke xxi. 8.




Jam hinc.


Gen. xlix. 27, Septuagint, the latter clause being καὶ εἰς τὸ ἑσπέρας δίδωσι τροφήν.




Non aliud portendebat quam.


Secundum Virginis censum.


Figurarum sacramenta.


Although St. Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles, Marcion does not seem to have admitted this book into his New Testament. “It is clearly excluded from his catalogue, as given by Epiphanius. The same thing appears from the more ancient authority of Tertullian, who begins his Book v. against Marcion with showing the absurdity of his conduct in rejecting the history and acts of the apostles, and yet receiving St. Paul as the chief of the apostles, whose name is never mentioned in the Gospel with the other apostles, especially since the account given by Paul himself in Gal. i.-ii. confirms the account which we have in the Acts. But the reason why he rejected this book is (as Tertullian says) very evident, since from it we can plainly show that the God of the Christians and the God of the Jews, or the Creator, was the same being and that Christ was sent by Him, and by no other” (Lardner’s Works, Hist. of Heretics, chap. x. sec. 41).


Gal. i. 1.


Inde te a defensione ejus expello.


An insinuation that Marcion’s defence of Paul was, in fact, a calumny of the apostle.


Præstruant eam.


Qualis es.


Habe nunc de meo.


In ipso gradu præscriptionis.


Oportere docere…sapere…velle.




Ne non haberetur.


Nullum alium deum circumlatum.


Præjudicasse debebit.


Marcion only received ten of St. Paul’s epistles, and these altered by himself.

Next: On the Epistle to the Galatians. The Abolition of the Ordinances of the Mosaic Law No Proof of Another God. The Divine Lawgiver, the Creator Himself, Was the Abrogator. The Apostle's Doctrine in the First Chapter Shown to Accord with the Teaching of the Old Testament. The Acts of the Apostles Shown to Be Genuine Against Marcion. This Book Agrees with the Pauline Epistles.