Sacred Texts  Christianity  Early Church Fathers  Index  Previous  Next 

Chapter XX.—The Epistle to the Philippians. The Variances Amongst the Preachers of Christ No Argument that There Was More Than One Only Christ. St. Paul’s Phrases—Form of a Servant, Likeness, and Fashion of a Man—No Sanction of Docetism. No Antithesis (Such as Marcion Alleged) in the God of Judaism and the God of the Gospel Deducible from Certain Contrasts Mentioned in This Epistle. A Parallel with a Passage in Genesis. The Resurrection of the Body, and the Change Thereof.

When (the apostle) mentions the several motives of those who were preaching the gospel, how that some, “waxing confident by his bonds, were more fearless in speaking the word,” while others “preached Christ even out of envy and strife, and again others out of good-will,” many also “out of love,” and certain “out of contention,” and some “in rivalry to himself,” 6096 he had a favourable opportunity, no doubt, 6097 of taxing what they preached with a diversity of doctrine, as if it were no less than this which caused so great a variance in their tempers. But while he exposes these tempers as the sole cause of the diversity, he avoids inculpating the regular mysteries of the faith, 6098 and affirms that there is, notwithstanding, but one Christ and His one God, whatever motives men had in preaching Him.  Therefore, says he, it matters not to me “whether it be in pretence or in truth that Christ is preached,” 6099 because one Christ alone was announced, whether in their “pretentious” or their “truthful” faith. For it was to the faithfulness of their preaching that he applied the word truth, not to the rightness of the rule itself, because there was indeed but one rule; whereas the conduct of the preachers varied: in some of them it was true, i.e. single-minded, while in others it was sophisticated with over-much learning.  This being the case, it is manifest that that Christ was the subject of their preaching who was always the theme of the prophets. Now, if it were a completely different Christ that was being introduced by the apostle, the novelty of the thing would have produced a diversity (in belief.). For there would not have been wanting, in spite of the novel teaching, 6100 men to interpret the preached gospel of the Creator’s Christ, since the majority of persons everywhere now-a-days are of our way of thinking, rather than on the heretical side. So that the apostle would not in such a passage as the present one have refrained from remarking and censuring the diversity.  Since, however, there is no blame of a diversity, there is no proof of a novelty. Of course 6101 the Marcionites suppose that they have the apostle on their side in the following passage in the matter of Christ’s substance—that in Him there was nothing but a phantom of flesh. For he says of Christ, that, “being in the form of God, He thought it not robbery to be equal with God; 6102 but emptied 6103 Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant,” not the reality, “and was made in the likeness of man,” not a man, “and was found in fashion as a man,” 6104 not in his substance, that is to say, his flesh; just as if to a subp. 473 stance there did not accrue both form and likeness and fashion. It is well for us that in another passage (the apostle) calls Christ “the image of the invisible God.” 6105 For will it not follow with equal force from that passage, that Christ is not truly God, because the apostle places Him in the image of God, if, (as Marcion contends,) He is not truly man because of His having taken on Him the form or image of a man? For in both cases the true substance will have to be excluded, if image (or “fashion”) and likeness and form shall be claimed for a phantom. But since he is truly God, as the Son of the Father, in His fashion and image, He has been already by the force of this conclusion determined to be truly man, as the Son of man, “found in the fashion” and image “of a man.”  For when he propounded 6106 Him as thus “found” in the manner 6107 of a man, he in fact affirmed Him to be most certainly human. For what is found, manifestly possesses existence. Therefore, as He was found to be God by His mighty power, so was He found to be man by reason of His flesh, because the apostle could not have pronounced Him to have “become obedient unto death,” 6108 if He had not been constituted of a mortal substance. Still more plainly does this appear from the apostle’s additional words, “even the death of the cross.” 6109 For he could hardly mean this to be a climax 6110 to the human suffering, to extol the virtue 6111 of His obedience, if he had known it all to be the imaginary process of a phantom, which rather eluded the cross than experienced it, and which displayed no virtue 6112 in the suffering, but only illusion. But “those things which he had once accounted gain,” and which he enumerates in the preceding verse—“trust in the flesh,” the sign of “circumcision,” his origin as “an Hebrew of the Hebrews,” his descent from “the tribe of Benjamin,” his dignity in the honours of the Pharisee 6113 —he now reckons to be only “loss” to himself; 6114 (in other words,) it was not the God of the Jews, but their stupid obduracy, which he repudiates. These are also the things “which he counts but dung for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ” 6115 (but by no means for the rejection of God the Creator); “whilst he has not his own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through Him,” i.e. Christ, “the righteousness which is of God.” 6116 Then, say you, according to this distinction the law did not proceed from the God of Christ.  Subtle enough! But here is something still more subtle for you. For when (the apostle) says, “Not (the righteousness) which is of the law, but that which is through Him,” he would not have used the phrase through Him of any other than Him to whom the law belonged. “Our conversation,” says he, “is in heaven.” 6117 I here recognise the Creator’s ancient promise to Abraham: “I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven.” 6118 Therefore “one star differeth from another star in glory.” 6119 If, again, Christ in His advent from heaven “shall change the body of our humiliation, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body,” 6120 it follows that this body of ours shall rise again, which is now in a state of humiliation in its sufferings and according to the law of mortality drops into the ground. But how shall it be changed, if it shall have no real existence? If, however, this is only said of those who shall be found in the flesh 6121 at the advent of God, and who shall have to be changed,” 6122 what shall they do who will rise first?  They will have no substance from which to undergo a change. But he says (elsewhere), “We shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord (in the air).” 6123 Then, if we are to be caught up alone with them, surely we shall likewise be changed together with them.



Phil. i. 14-17.




Regulas sacramentorum.


Phil. i. 18.






Compare the treatise, De Resur. Carnis, c. vi. (Oehler).


Exhausit ἐκένωσε.


Phil. 2:6, 7.


Col. i. 15.




Inventum ratione.


Phil. ii. 8.


Phil. ii. 8.


Non enim exaggeraret.


Virtutem: perhaps the power.


See the preceding note.


Candidæ pharisaeæ: see Phil. iii. 4-6.


Phil. iii. 7.


Phil. iii. 8.


Phil. iii. 9.


Phil. iii. 20.


Gen. xxii. 17.


1 Cor. xv. 41.


Phil. iii. 21. [I have adhered to the original Greek, by a trifling verbal change, because Tertullian’s argument requires it.]


1 Cor. 15:51, 52.


Deputari, which is an old reading, should certainly be demutari, and so say the best authorities. Oehler reads the former, but contends for the latter.


1 Thess. 4:16, 17.

Next: The Epistle to Philemon.  This Epistle Not Mutilated.  Marcion's Inconsistency in Accepting This, and Rejecting Three Other Epistles Addressed to Individuals.  Conclusions. Tertullian Vindicates the Symmetry and Deliberate Purpose of His Work Against Marcion.