Wish You to Know, Most Pious Father, that in These Days There Has Arrived...
I wish you to know, most pious father, that in these days there has arrived in our parts a certain person named Manes, who gives out that he is to complete the doctrine of the New Testament. And in the statements which he has made there have been some things, indeed, which may harmonize with our faith; but there have been also certain affirmations of his which seem very far removed from what has come down to us by the tradition of our fathers. For he has interpreted some doctrines in a strange fashion, imposing on them certain notions of his own, which have appeared to me to be altogether foreign and opposed to the faith. On the ground of these facts I have now been induced to write this letter to you, knowing the completeness and fulness of your intelligence in doctrine, and being assured that none of these things can escape your cognizance. Accordingly, I have also indulged the confident hope that you cannot be kept back by any grudge [1865] from explaining these matters to us. As to myself, indeed, it is not possible that I shall be drawn away into any novel doctrine; nevertheless, in behalf of all the less instructed, I have been led to ask a word with your authority. For, in truth, the man shows himself to be a person of extraordinary force of character, both in speech and in action; and indeed his very aspect and attire also bear that out. But I shall here write down for your information some few points which I have been able to retain in my memory out of all the topics which have been expounded by him: for I know that even by these few you will have an idea of the rest. You well understand, no doubt, that those who seek to set up any new dogma have the habit of very readily perverting into a conformity with their own notions any proofs they desire to take from the Scriptures. [1866] In anticipation, however, of this, the apostolic word marks out the case thus: "If any one preach any other gospel unto you than that which you have received, let him be accursed." [1867] And consequently, in addition to what has been once committed to us by the apostles, a disciple of Christ ought to receive nothing new as doctrine. [1868] But not to make what I have got to say too long, I return to the subject directly in view. This man then maintained that the law of Moses, to speak shortly, does not proceed from the good God, but from the prince of evil; and that it has no kinship with the new law of Christ, but is contrary and hostile to it, the one being the direct antagonist of the other. When I heard such a sentiment propounded, I repeated to the people that sentence of the Gospel in which our Lord Jesus Christ said of Himself: "I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil it." [1869] The man, however, averred that He did not utter this saying at all; for he held that when we find that He did abrogate [1870] that same law, we are bound to give heed, above all other considerations, to the thing which He actually did. Then he began to cite a great variety of passages from the law, and also many from the Gospel and from the Apostle Paul, which have the appearance of contradicting each other. All this he gave forth at the same time with perfect confidence, and without any hesitation or fear; so that I verily believe he has that serpent as his helper, who is ever our adversary. Well, he declared that there in the law God said, "I make the rich man and the poor man;" [1871] while here in the Gospel Jesus called the poor blessed, [1872] and added, that no man could be His disciple unless he gave up all that he had. [1873] Again, he maintained that there Moses took silver and gold from the Egyptians when the people [1874] fled out of Egypt; [1875] whereas Jesus delivered the precept that we should lust after nothing belonging to our neighbour. Then he affirmed that Moses had provided in the law, that an eye should be given in penalty for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; [1876] but that our Lord bade us offer the other cheek also to him who smote the one. [1877] He told us, too, that there Moses commanded the man to be punished and stoned who did any work on the Sabbath, and who failed to continue in all things that were written in the law, [1878] as in fact was done to that person who, yet being ignorant, had gathered a bundle of sticks on the Sabbath-day; whereas Jesus cured a cripple on the Sabbath, and ordered him then also to take up his bed. [1879] And further, He did not restrain His disciples from plucking the ears of corn and rubbing them with their hands on the Sabbath-day, [1880] which yet was a thing which it was unlawful to do on the Sabbaths. And why should I mention other instances? For with many different assertions of a similar nature these dogmas of his were propounded with the utmost energy and the most fervid zeal. Thus, too, on the authority of an apostle, he endeavoured to establish the position that the law of Moses is the law of death, and that the law of Jesus, on the contrary, is the law of life. For he based that assertion on the passage which runs thus: "In which also may God make us [1881] able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, engraven in letters on the stones, [1882] was made in glory, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away; how shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which shall be done away is glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious." [1883] And this passage, as you are also well aware, occurs in the second Epistle to the Corinthians. Besides, he added to this another passage out of the first epistle, on which he based his affirmation that the disciples of the Old Testament were earthly and natural; and in accordance with this, that flesh and blood could not possess the kingdom of God. [1884] He also maintained that Paul himself spoke in his own proper person when he said: "If I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor." [1885] Further, he averred that the same apostle made this statement most obviously on the subject of the resurrection of the flesh, when he also said that "he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh," [1886] and that according to the letter the law has in it no advantage. [1887] And again he adduced the statement, that "Abraham has glory, but not before God;" [1888] and that "by the law there comes only the knowledge of sin." [1889] And many other things did he introduce, with the view of detracting from the honour of the law, on the ground that the law itself is sin; by which statements the simpler people were somewhat influenced, as he continued to bring them forward; and in accordance with all this, he also made use of the affirmation, that "the law and the prophets were until John." [1890] He declared, however, that John preached the true kingdom of heaven; for verily he held, that by the cutting off of his head it was signified that all who went before him, and who had precedence over him, were to be cut off, and that what was to come after him was alone to be maintained. With reference to all these things, therefore, O most pious Archelaus, send us back a short reply in writing: for I have heard that you have studied such matters in no ordinary degree; and that capacity which you possess is God's gift, inasmuch as God bestows these gifts upon those who are worthy of them, and who are His friends, and who show themselves allied to Him in community of purpose and life. For it is our part to prepare ourselves, and to approach the gracious and liberal mind, [1891] and forthwith we receive from it the most bountiful gifts. Accordingly, since the learning which I possess for the discussion of themes like these does not meet the requirements of my desire and purpose, for I confess myself to be an unlearned man, I have sent to you, as I have already said more than once, in the hope of obtaining from your hand the amplest solution to this question. May it be well with you, incomparable and honourable father!


[1865] Invidia.

[1866] [Tertullian, vol. iii. p. 251, this series.]

[1867] Galatians 1:8.

[1868] [Against Scripture and the torrent of patristic testimony, the men of this generation have seen new dogmas imposed upon a great portion of Christendom by the voice of a single bishop, and without synodical deliberation or consent. The whole claim to "Catholicity" perishes wherever such dogmas are accepted.]

[1869] Matthew 5:17.

[1870] Resolvisse.

[1871] Proverbs 22:2.

[1872] Matthew 5:3.

[1873] Luke 14:33.

[1874] Reading cum populis for the cum populo of the text.

[1875] Exodus 12:35.

[1876] Exodus 21:24.

[1877] Luke 6:29.

[1878] Numbers 15:32.

[1879] Mark 2:11.

[1880] Luke 6:1.

[1881] Faciat Deus.

[1882] In litteris formatum in lapidibus.

[1883] 2 Corinthians 3:6-11.

[1884] 1 Corinthians 15:46-50.

[1885] Galatians 2:18.

[1886] Romans 2:28.

[1887] Romans 4:1.

[1888] Romans 4:2.

[1889] Romans 3:20.

[1890] Luke 16:16.

[1891] Reading "præparare et proximos fieri benignæ ac diviti menti" for "præparet proximus fieri benignæ hac," etc., as it stands in the Codex Casinensis. Routh suggests "præparare proximos fieri benignæ ac diviti menti et continuo...consequemur" = to take care to draw near to the gracious and liberal mind, and then we shall forthwith receive steadily from it, etc.

39 on hearing these matters
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