Sacred Texts  Christianity  Early Church Fathers  Index  Previous  Next 

Chapter XI.—The Second Epistle to the Corinthians. The Creator the Father of Mercies. Shown to Be Such in the Old Testament, and Also in Christ.  The Newness of the New Testament.  The Veil of Obdurate Blindness Upon Israel, Not Reprehensible on Marcion’s Principles. The Jews Guilty in Rejecting the Christ of the Creator.  Satan, the God of This World. The Treasure in Earthen Vessels Explained Against Marcion. The Creator’s Relation to These Vessels, I.e. Our Bodies.

If, owing to the fault of human error, the word God has become a common name (since in the world there are said and believed to be “gods many” 5679 ), yet “the blessed God,” (who is “the Father) of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 5680 will be understood to be no other God than the Creator, who both blessed all things (that He had made), as you find in Genesis, 5681 and is Himself “blessed by all things,” as Daniel tells us. 5682 Now, if the title of Father may be claimed for (Marcion’s) sterile god, how much more for the Creator? To none other than Him is it suitable, who is also “the Father of mercies,” 5683 and (in the prophets) has been described as “full of compassion, and gracious, and plenteous in mercy.” 5684 In Jonah you find the signal act of His mercy, which He showed to the praying Ninevites. 5685 How inflexible was He at the tears of Hezekiah! 5686 How ready to forgive Ahab, the husband of Jezebel, the blood of Naboth, when he deprecated His anger. 5687 How prompt in pardoning David on his confession of his sin 5688 —preferring, indeed, the sinner’s repentance to his death, of course because of His gracious attribute of mercy. 5689 Now, if Marcion’s god has exhibited or proclaimed any such thing as this, I will allow him to be “the Father of mercies.” Since, however, he ascribes to him this title only from the time he has been revealed, as if he were the father of mercies from the time only when he began to liberate the human race, then we on our side, too, 5690 adopt the same precise date of his alleged revelation; but it is that we may deny him! It is then not competent to him to ascribe any quality to his god, whom indeed he only promulged by the fact of such an ascription; for only if it were previously evident that his god had an existence, could he be permitted to ascribe an attribute to him. The ascribed attribute is only an accident; but accidents 5691 are preceded by the statement of the thing itself of which they are predicated, especially when another claims the attribute which is ascribed to him who has not been previously shown to exist. Our denial of his existence will be all the more peremptory, because of the fact that the attribute which is alleged in proof of it belongs to that God who has been already revealed. Therefore “the New Testament” will appertain to none other than Him who promised it—if not “its letter, yet its spirit;” 5692 and herein will lie its newness. Indeed, He who had engraved its letter in stones is the same as He who had said of its spirit, “I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.” 5693 Even if “the letter killeth, yet the Spirit giveth life;” 5694 and both belong to Him who says: “I kill, and I make alive; I wound, p. 453 and I heal.” 5695 We have already made good the Creator’s claim to this twofold character of judgment and goodness 5696 —“killing in the letter” through the law, and “quickening in the Spirit” through the Gospel. Now these attributes, however different they be, cannot possibly make two gods; for they have already (in the prevenient dispensation of the Old Testament) been found to meet in One. 5697 He alludes to Moses’ veil, covered with which “his face could not be stedfastly seen by the children of Israel.” 5698 Since he did this to maintain the superiority of the glory of the New Testament, which is permanent in its glory, over that of the Old, “which was to be done away,” 5699 this fact gives support to my belief which exalts the Gospel above the law and you must look well to it that it does not even more than this. For only there is superiority possible where was previously the thing over which superiority can be affirmed. But then he says, “But their minds were blinded” 5700 —of the world; certainly not the Creator’s mind, but the minds of the people which are in the world. 5701 Of Israel he says, Even unto this day the same veil is upon their heart;” 5702 showing that the veil which was on the face of Moses was a figure of the veil which is on the heart of the nation still; because even now Moses is not seen by them in heart, just as he was not then seen by them in eye. But what concern has Paul with the veil which still obscures Moses from their view, if the Christ of the Creator, whom Moses predicted, is not yet come? How are the hearts of the Jews represented as still covered and veiled, if the predictions of Moses relating to Christ, in whom it was their duty to believe through him, are as yet unfulfilled? What had the apostle of a strange Christ to complain of, if the Jews failed in understanding the mysterious announcements of their own God, unless the veil which was upon their hearts had reference to that blindness which concealed from their eyes the Christ of Moses? Then, again, the words which follow, But when it shall turn to the Lord, the evil shall be taken away,” 5703 properly refer to the Jew, over whose gaze Moses’ veil is spread, to the effect that, when he is turned to the faith of Christ, he will understand how Moses spoke of Christ. But how shall the veil of the Creator be taken away by the Christ of another god, whose mysteries the Creator could not possibly have veiled—unknown mysteries, as they were of an unknown god? So he says that “we now with open face” (meaning the candour of the heart, which in the Jews had been covered with a veil), “beholding Christ, are changed into the same image, from that glory” (wherewith Moses was transfigured as by the glory of the Lord) “to another glory.” 5704 By thus setting forth the glory which illumined the person of Moses from his interview with God, and the veil which concealed the same from the infirmity of the people, and by superinducing thereupon the revelation and the glory of the Spirit in the person of Christ—“even as,” to use his words, “by the Spirit of the Lord” 5705 —he testifies that the whole Mosaic system 5706 was a figure of Christ, of whom the Jews indeed were ignorant, but who is known to us Christians. We are quite aware that some passages are open to ambiguity, from the way in which they are read, or else from their punctuation, when there is room for these two causes of ambiguity. The latter method has been adopted by Marcion, by reading the passage which follows, “in whom the God of this world,” 5707 as if it described the Creator as the God of this world, in order that he may, by these words, imply that there is another God for the other world. We, however, say that the passage ought to be punctuated with a comma after God, to this effect: “In whom God hath blinded the eyes of the unbelievers of this world.” 5708 “In whom” means the Jewish unbelievers, from some of whom the gospel is still hidden under Moses’ veil. Now it is these whom God had threatened for “loving Him indeed with the lip, whilst their heart was far from Him,” 5709 in these angry words: “Ye shall hear with your ears, and not understand; and see with your eyes, but not perceive;” 5710 and, “If ye will not believe, ye shall not understand;” 5711 and again, “I will take away the wisdom of their wise men, p. 454 and bring to nought 5712 the understanding of their prudent ones.”  But these words, of course, He did not pronounce against them for concealing the gospel of the unknown God.  At any rate, if there is a God of this world, 5713 He blinds the heart of the unbelievers of this world, because they have not of their own accord recognised His Christ, who ought to be understood from His Scriptures. 5714 Content with my advantage, I can willingly refrain from noticing to any greater length 5715 this point of ambiguous punctuation, so as not to give my adversary any advantage, 5716 indeed, I might have wholly omitted the discussion. A simpler answer I shall find ready to hand in interpreting “the god of this world” of the devil, who once said, as the prophet describes him: “I will be like the Most High; I will exalt my throne in the clouds.” 5717 The whole superstition, indeed, of this world has got into his hands, 5718 so that he blinds effectually the hearts of unbelievers, and of none more than the apostate Marcion’s. Now he did not observe how much this clause of the sentence made against him: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to (give) the light of the knowledge (of His glory) in the face of (Jesus) Christ.” 5719 Now who was it that said; “Let there be light?” 5720 And who was it that said to Christ concerning giving light to the world: “I have set Thee as a light to the Gentiles” 5721 —to them, that is, “who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death?” 5722 (None else, surely, than He), to whom the Spirit in the Psalm answers, in His foresight of the future, saying, “The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, hath been displayed upon us.” 5723 Now the countenance (or person 5724 ) of the Lord here is Christ. Wherefore the apostle said above: “Christ, who is the image of God.” 5725 Since Christ, then, is the person of the Creator, who said, “Let there be light,” it follows that Christ and the apostles, and the gospel, and the veil, and Moses—nay, the whole of the dispensations—belong to the God who is the Creator of this world, according to the testimony of the clause (above adverted to), and certainly not to him who never said, “Let there be light.” I here pass over discussion about another epistle, which we hold to have been written to the Ephesians, but the heretics to the Laodiceans. In it he tells 5726 them to remember, that at the time when they were Gentiles they were without Christ, aliens from (the commonwealth of) Israel, without intercourse, without the covenants and any hope of promise, nay, without God, even in his own world, 5727 as the Creator thereof. Since therefore he said, that the Gentiles were without God, whilst their god was the devil, not the Creator, it is clear that he must be understood to be the lord of this world, whom the Gentiles received as their god—not the Creator, of whom they were in ignorance. But how does it happen, that “the treasure which we have in these earthen vessels of ours” 5728 should not be regarded as belonging to the God who owns the vessels? Now since God’s glory is, that so great a treasure is contained in earthen vessels, and since these earthen vessels are of the Creator’s make, it follows that the glory is the Creator’s; nay, since these vessels of His smack so much of the excellency of the power of God, that power itself must be His also! Indeed, all these things have been consigned to the said “earthen vessels” for the very purpose that His excellence might be manifested forth. Henceforth, then, the rival god will have no claim to the glory, and consequently none to the power. Rather, dishonour and weakness will accrue to him, because the earthen vessels with which he had nothing to do have received all the excellency! Well, then, if it be in these very earthen vessels that he tells us we have to endure so great sufferings, 5729 in which we bear about with us the very dying of God, 5730 (Marcion’s) god is really ungrateful and unjust, if he does not mean to restore this same substance of ours at the resurrection, wherein so much has been endured in loyalty to him, in which Christ’s very death is borne about, wherein too the excellency of his power is treasured. 5731 For he gives prominence to the statement, “That the life also of Christ may be manifested in our body,” 5732 as a contrast to the preceding, that His death is borne about in our body. Now of what life of Christ does he here speak?  Of that which we are now living?  Then how is it, that in the words which follow he exhorts us not to the things p. 455 which are seen and are temporal, but to those which are not seen and are eternal 5733 —in other words, not to the present, but to the future? But if it be of the future life of Christ that he speaks, intimating that it is to be made manifest in our body, 5734 then he has clearly predicted the resurrection of the flesh. 5735 He says, too, that “our outward man perishes,” 5736 not meaning by an eternal perdition after death, but by labours and sufferings, in reference to which he previously said, “For which cause we will not faint.” 5737 Now, when he adds of “the inward man” also, that it “is renewed day by day,” he demonstrates both issues here—the wasting away of the body by the wear and tear 5738 of its trials, and the renewal of the soul 5739 by its contemplation of the promises.



1 Cor. viii. 5.


2 Cor. i. 3.


Gen. i. 22.


Dan. 2:19, 20, Dan. 3:28, 29, Dan. 4:34, 37.


2 Cor. i. 3.


Ps. 86:15, Ps. 12:4, Ps. 45:8, Jonah 4:2.


Jonah iii. 8.


2 Kings 20:3, 5.


1 Kings 21:27, 29.


2 Sam. xii. 13.


Ezek. xxxiii. 11.


Atquin et nos.


The Contingent qualities in logic.


2 Cor. iii. 6.


Joel ii. 28.


2 Cor. iii. 6.


Deut. xxxii. 39.


See above in book ii. [cap. xi. p. 306.]


Apud unum recenseri prævenerunt.


2 Cor. 3:7, 13.


2 Cor. 3:7, 8.


Obtunsi: “blunted,” 2 Cor. iii. 14.


He seems to have read the clause as applying to the world, but St. Paul certainly refers only to the obdurate Jews. The text is:  “Sed obtunsi sunt sensus mundi.


2 Cor. iii. 15.


2 Cor. iii. 16.


2 Cor. iii. 18.


2 Cor. iii. 18, but T.’s reading is “tanquam a domino spirituum” (“even as by the Lord of the Spirits,” probably the sevenfold Spirit.). The original is, καθάπερ ἀπὸ Κυρίου Πνεύματος, “by the Lord the Spirit.”


Moysi ordinem totum.


2 Cor. iv. 4.


He would stop off the phrase τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου from ὁ Θεὸς, and remove it to the end of the sentence as a qualification of τῶν ἀπίστων. He adds another interpretation just afterwards, which, we need not say, is both more consistent with the sense of the passage and with the consensus of Christian writers of all ages, although “it is historically curious” (as Dean Alford has remarked) “that Irenæus [Hæres. iv. 48, Origen, Tertullian (v. 11, contra Marcion)], Chrysostom, Œcumenius, Theodoret, Theophylact, all repudiate, in their zeal against the Manichæans, the grammatical rendering, and take τῶν ἀπίστων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου together” (Greek Testament, in loc.). [I have corrected Alford’s reference to Tertullian which he makes B. iv. 11.]


Isa. xxix. 13.


Isa. vi. 10 (only adapted).


Isa. vii. 9, Sept.


Sept. κρὐψω, “will hide.”


Said concessively, in reference to M.’s position above mentioned.


Marcion’s “God of this world” being the God of the Old Testament.


Hactenus: pro non amplius (Oehler) tractasse.


“A fuller criticism on this slight matter might give his opponent the advantage, as apparently betraying a penury of weightier and more certain arguments” (Oehler).


Isa. xiv. 14.


Mancipata est illi.


2 Cor. iv. 6.


Gen. i. 3.


Isa. xlix. 6 (Sept. quoted in Acts xiii. 47).


Isa. 9:2, Matt. 4:16.


Ps. iv. 7 (Sept.).


Persona: the πρόσωπον of the Septuagint.


2 Cor. iv. 4.




Eph. ii. 12.


2 Cor. iv. 7.


2 Cor. iv. 8-12.


Oehler, after Fr. Junius, defends the reading “mortificationem dei,” instead of Domini, in reference to Marcion, who seems to have so corrupted the reading.


2 Cor. iv. 10.


2 Cor. iv. 10.


2 Cor. iv. 16-18.


2 Cor. iv. 11.


2 Cor. iv. 14.


2 Cor. iv. 16.


2 Cor. iv. 16.





Next: The Eternal Home in Heaven. Beautiful Exposition by Tertullian of the Apostle's Consolatory Teaching Against the Fear of Death, So Apt to Arise Under Anti-Christian Oppression. The Judgment-Seat of Christ--The Idea, Anti-Marcionite.  Paradise. Judicial Characteristics of Christ Which are Inconsistent with the Heretical Views About Him; The Apostle's Sharpness, or Severity, Shows Him to Be a Fit Preacher of the Creator's Christ.