The Marcionites Depreciate the Creation, Which, However, is a Worthy Witness of God this Worthiness Illustrated by References to the Heathen Philosophers, who were Apt To
While we are expelling from this rank (of Deity) a god who has no evidence to show for himself which is so proper and God-worthy as the testimony of the Creator, Marcion's most shameless followers with haughty impertinence fall upon the Creator's works to destroy them. To be sure, say they, the world is a grand work, worthy of a God. [2472] Then is the Creator not at all a God? By all means He is God. [2473] Therefore [2474] the world is not unworthy of God, for God has made nothing unworthy of Himself; although it was for man, and not for Himself, that He made the world, (and) although every work is less than its maker. And yet, if to have been the author of our creation, such as it is, be unworthy of God, how much more unworthy of Him is it to have created absolutely nothing at all! -- not even a production which, although unworthy, might yet have encouraged the hope of some better attempt. To say somewhat, then, concerning the alleged [2475] unworthiness of this world's fabric, to which among the Greeks also is assigned a name of ornament and grace, [2476] not of sordidness, those very professors of wisdom, [2477] from whose genius every heresy derives its spirit, [2478] called the said unworthy elements divine; as Thales did water, Heraclitus fire, Anaximenes air, Anaximander all the heavenly bodies, Strato the sky and earth, Zeno the air and ether, and Plato the stars, which he calls a fiery kind of gods; whilst concerning the world, when they considered indeed its magnitude, and strength, and power, and honour, and glory, -- the abundance, too, the regularity, and law of those individual elements which contribute to the production, the nourishment, the ripening, and the reproduction of all things, -- the majority of the philosophers hesitated [2479] to assign a beginning and an end to the said world, lest its constituent elements, [2480] great as they undoubtedly are, should fail to be regarded as divine, [2481] which are objects of worship with the Persian magi, the Egyptian hierophants, and the Indian gymnosophists. The very superstition of the crowd, inspired by the common idolatry, when ashamed of the names and fables of their ancient dead borne by their idols, has recourse to the interpretation of natural objects, and so with much ingenuity cloaks its own disgrace, figuratively reducing Jupiter to a heated substance, and Juno to an aërial one (according to the literal sense of the Greek words); [2482] Vesta, in like manner, to fire, and the Muses to waters, and the Great Mother [2483] to the earth, mowed as to its crops, ploughed up with lusty arms, and watered with baths. [2484] Thus Osiris also, whenever he is buried, and looked for to come to life again, and with joy recovered, is an emblem of the regularity wherewith the fruits of the ground return, and the elements recover life, and the year comes round; as also the lions of Mithras [2485] are philosophical sacraments of arid and scorched nature. It is, indeed, enough for me that natural elements, foremost in site and state, should have been more readily regarded as divine than as unworthy of God. I will, however, come down to [2486] humbler objects. A single floweret from the hedgerow, I say not from the meadows; a single little shellfish from any sea, I say not from the Red Sea; a single stray wing of a moorfowl, I say nothing of the peacock, -- will, I presume, prove to you that the Creator was but a sorry [2487] artificer!


[2472] This is an ironical concession from the Marcionite side.

[2473] Another concession.

[2474] Tertullian's rejoinder.

[2475] De isto.

[2476] They called it kosmos.

[2477] By sapientiæ professores he means the heathen philosophers; see De Præscript. Hæret. c. 7.

[2478] In his book adv. Hermogenem, c. 8, Tertullian calls the philosophers "hæreticorum patriarchæ."

[2479] Formidaverint.

[2480] Substantiæ.

[2481] Dei.

[2482] The Greek name of Jupiter, Zeus, is here derived from zeo, ferveo, I glow. Juno's name, Era, Tertullian connects with aer, the air; para to aer kath' huperthesin Era. These names of the two great deities suggest a connection with fire and air.

[2483] i.e., Cybele.

[2484] The earth's irrigations, and the washings of the image of Cybele every year in the river Almo by her priests, are here confusedly alluded to. For references to the pagan custom, see White and Riddle's large Lat. Dict. s. v. Almo.

[2485] Mithras, the Persian sun-god, was symbolized by the image of a lion. The sun entering the zodiacal sign Leo amidst summer heat may be glanced at.

[2486] Deficiam ad.

[2487] Sordidum. [Well and nobly said.]

chapter xii impossibility of acknowledging god
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