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BOOK II

1. The fortunes of this work have been described in the preface
to Book I. The opportunity of revision gives me this further
advantage, that in the discussion of two gods, in opposition to
Marcion, I am now able to assign to each of them a separate
book with its distinctive heading: for so does the subject-matter
naturally divide. That man from Pontus has seen fit to invent
a second god, while denying the first: I however totally deny the
existence of the second, while maintaining that the first is God in
fall right. Marcion could only build up his falsehood by first
breaking down the truth. He had to pull the other thing down
before he could build up as he desired. In such a way do people
build who have no tackle of their own. It ought to have been
possible to confine my argument to this single theme, that the
god brought in to supersede the Creator is no god at all. In that
case, when the false god had been overthrown by those clear
definitions which require deity to be both singular and complete,
no further discussion of the true God would have been called for.
As his existence would have been proved by the disproval of the
other, so it would have been right that, whatever sort of God he
was, he should be accepted without argument, to be worshipped
and not judged, to be obeyed rather than discussed, and even
feared for his severity. For what could be more to a man's interest
than regard for the true God, under whose control he had come,
so to speak, because no other god was there?

2. But now God the Almighty, the Lord and Maker of all things,
is made subject to criticism, chiefly, I think, because he has been
known of since the beginning, has never kept himself hidden, has
always been a shining light, even before Romulus, and long
before Tiberius: except that only to those heretics who subject
him to criticism he has not been known, for these think they must
assume the existence of a second god because the God whose
existence is unquestioned they find it easier to reprove than to
deny—for they form their estimate of God according to the choice
of their own mind—as if a blind man, or one whose eyes are dim,


II. 2 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 89

should decide to assume the existence of a second sun, of a milder
or more health-giving sort, because he fails to see the one he does
see. There is but one sun, my friend, the one which warms this
world. Even when you think otherwise, it is supremely good and
useful: and when you find it too fierce or injurious, or even too
squalid or unhealthy, it still serves the law of its being. If you
are not competent to perceive that law, neither could you tolerate
the beams of a second sun if there were a second, especially if it
were larger. As you are purblind towards the God (you suppose)
inferior, how do you stand towards the god more sublime? Why
not rather have consideration for your own weakness, why not
spare yourself dangerous exertion, when you have a God well
attested and undeniable, and by that very fact as visible as he
has need to be? For your first view of the matter must have been
this, that he is one whom you do not know except to the extent
to which he has himself consented to be known. And yet, as
though you knew God, you admit his existence: as though you
did not know him, you make him a subject of discussion: and
what is more, you lay complaint against him as though you did
know him, though if you really knew him you would neither
complain nor even discuss. You grant him the name, while
denying the reality behind the name, the reality of that greatness
which is described as 'God': and you fail to appreciate that this
greatness is such that if a man had been able to know it in all its
fullness it would not have been greatness. Anticipating the apostle,
and having foresight of heretical hearts, Isaiah asks, Who hath
known the mind of the Lord or who hath been his counsellor? Or of whom
did he take counsel, or who hath shewn him the way of understanding and
knowledge?a
And the apostle was to agree with him: O the depth of
the riches and the wisdom of God, how unsearchable his judgements—
evidently God is a judge—and unsearchable his waysbevidently
those ways of understanding and knowledge which no one has
shown to him, except perhaps these critics of divinity, who say,
'God ought not to have done that', or 'He ought to have done
this instead'—as though anyone knew what things there are in
God except the Spirit of God.c But these, because they have the
spirit of the world, and by the wisdom of God through wisdom
know not God,d think themselves better advised than God: be-
cause just as the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God,
so also the wisdom of God is foolishness with the world. We


II. 3 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 91

however know that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and
the weakness of God stronger than men." Consequently God is
then most supremely great when man thinks him small, is then
most supremely good when man thinks him not good, is then most
especially one when man thinks there are two gods or more. But
if since the beginning the natural man,1 not receiving the things
of the Spirit, has accounted the law of God foolishness f—and
this because he has neglected to keep it—, and therefore, because
he had not faith, even that which he seemed to have has been
taken from him5—I mean the grace of paradise, and that familiar
converse with God by which if he had obeyed he would have
known all the things of God—what wonder is it that, turned again
into that which he was made of, and sent down to slave-labour in
tilling of the ground, he should by this work, bent downwards and
turned towards the ground, have taken up from the ground the
spirit of the world, and passed it on to all his offspring, who like-
wise became natural and heretical, because they received not the
things that are God's? For can anyone hesitate to describe as
heresy, or choosing, that transgression of Adam which he com-
mitted by choosing his own judgement in preference to God's?
Even so, Adam never said to his Maker, 'Thou hast not moulded
me skilfully.' He admitted the beguilement, and did not conceal
her who had done the beguiling. A very inexperienced heretic
was he. He was disobedient: yet he did not blaspheme his
Creator, nor accuse his Maker: for since his own first beginning
he had found him kind, and supremely good; and if he was
a judge, it was Adam who had made him so.

3. As then we take in hand to weigh the evidence respecting the
God we know, since the question arises under what circumstances
he has become known, we shall need to begin with those works
of his which were there before man was. In this way his goodness
will be discovered immediately, as he himself is, and being from
thenceforth established as a leading principle, will convey to us
some sense by which to understand how well the subsequent
ordering of events has been carried out. Marcion's disciples can
now take cognizance of our God's goodness, while acknowledging
also that it is such a goodness as is worthy of God, under those
same headings by which we have proved goodness to be unworthy

2. 1 See above, pp. xviii, xix.


II. 4 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 93

in the case of their god. And this now in particular, which is the
raw material of man's knowledge of him, he did not discover in
another's possession, but made it for himself, of his own. So then,
the Creator's primary goodness is that by which it was God's
will not to be eternally in hiding, that is, that there had to be
something to which as God he might become known. For what
good is so great as the knowledge and enjoyment of God? For
although it was not yet apparent that this is good—because there
did not yet exist that to which it could be apparent—yet God
had foreknowledge of the good that was to become apparent, and
therefore put it in trust with that supreme goodness of his, that
administrator of the good that was to appear: so that this is of
no sudden growth, of no adventitious goodness or requisitioned
activation, as though it originated at the point at which it began
to function. For if it set up its own beginning only as it began to
function, itself had no beginning when it made the beginning.
But when the beginning had been made, from that goodness also
the reckoning of times was born: for it was for the distinguishing
and recording of times that the constellations and celestial lumi-
naries were ordained: They shall be, God said, for times and months
and years.a
Therefore until time began, that goodness which
created time existed without time, even as before the beginning
the goodness which established the beginning existed without
beginning. Exempt then both from order of beginning and from
measure of time, (God's goodness) must be accounted of age
unmeasurable and without end. Nor can it be reckoned makeshift
or adventitious or occasional, since it has no point from which it
can be reckoned, no time of any sort: but it must be taken to be
eternal, ingenerate in God, and everlasting, and on that account
worthy of God. From the first then it puts to shame the goodness
of Marcion's god, which is subsequent not only to the Creator's
beginnings and times, but even to his malice—if indeed it is
possible that malice has ever been a function of goodness.

4. Since then, with the intention that God himself might become
known, God's goodness had made provision of man's existence,1
it added this too to its good repute, that it first contrived for the
man a dwelling-place, from the first a very great structure, and

4. 1 On paradise, the divine command, and man's freedom of action (Chapters
4-6) cf. Theophilus, ad Autol. ii. 24-7.


II. 4 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 95

afterwards even a greater, so that in the great structure, as being
the lesser, he might practise and make progress, and thus obtain
promotion out of God's good thing, the great thing, into his
supremely good thing, the greater habitation, besides. To this
good work he appoints also a supremely good agent and admini-
strator, his own Word: My heart, he says, hath disgorged a supremely
good Word.a
Let Marcion here take note of the first excellent fruit
of a no less excellent tree. Like an utterly unskilful rustic he has
no doubt grafted a good tree on to a bad one: yet the sprout of
blasphemy cannot prevail: it must dry up, along with its inventor,
and in that way the nature of the good tree will bear witness to
itself. Look at the top of the page, and see what sort of fruit the
Word brought forth: And God said, Let there be, and there was: and
God saw that it was good:b
not as though he did not know the good
thing unless he saw it, but he saw it because it was good, and
dignified and attested and consummated the goodness of his
works by deigning to look at them. So also he continued to bless
the good things he continued to make, so that God in his whole-
ness might be commended to you as good both in speech and in
act. As yet the Word had not learned to speak evil, any more
than to do evil: we shall afterwards take note of the causes which
have made even this demand of God. Meanwhile the world con-
sisted of none but good things, and gave indication enough of
how great a good was in preparation for him for whom all this
was being prepared. Who indeed was worthy to have his home
among the works of God? Only God's own image and likeness.
That (image and likeness) too did goodness, an even more effec-
tive goodness, create, not by imperious word but by kindly hand,
though first was uttered that persuasive word, Let us make man
unto our image and likeness.c
It was goodness who spoke, it was
goodness who formed the man out of clay into that noble sub-
stance of flesh, a substance built up out of one material to possess
all those many attributes. It was goodness that breathed soul into
him—not dead soul but living. Goodness gave him dominion over
all things, to enjoy and to govern, and even to give them names.
Still more, it was goodness that gave man additional delights, so
that although in possession of the whole world he had his dwelling
in the more salubrious parts of it: so he was translated to para-
dise—so early as that translated out of the world into the Church.
That same goodness also sought out a help for him, so that no


II. 5 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 97

good thing might be lacking: It is not good, he said, that the man
should be alone.d
He foreknew that the femininity of Mary, and
subsequently of the Church, would be to the man's advantage.2
Even that law which you complain of, which you torment into
controversies, was laid down by goodness in the service of man's
interest, so that through close attachment to God his liberty
might not be mistaken for dereliction. Else he would have been
put on a level with his own menials, the other animals, which
God has left unfettered and free precisely because he cares less
for them. Rather was it intended that man alone might have
something to glory of, in that he alone had been worthy to receive
from God a law: and that, as a rational animal, capable of under-
standing and knowledge, he might be held in restraint by that
rational liberty besides, being subject to God who had to him
made all things subject.e Goodness it was, no less, that attached
the sanction for keeping this law: But in the day ye eat ye shall surely
die.f
It was in supreme kindness that it indicated the consequence
of transgression: otherwise ignorance of the danger might have
fostered neglect to obey. Indeed as there was previous reason for
imposing the law, there was subsequent reason for its being kept,
and for penalty to be appended to transgression, a penalty how-
ever which God, who told of it beforehand, would have pre-
ferred should not come into effect. Acknowledge then the goodness
of our God, meanwhile and thus far: see it in his good works and
his good words of blessing, in benefits conferred and provision
made, in laws also and admonitions no less gracious than kind.

5. Now for all the questions raised by you dogs1 as you growl
against the God of truth: and dogs, says the apostle, are cast outa
(of the city of God). Here are the bones of wranglings you gnaw
at. If God is good, you ask, and has knowledge of the future, and
also has power to avert evil, why did he suffer the man, deceived
by the devil, to fall away from obedience to the law, and so to
die? For the man was the image and likeness of God, or even
God's substance, since from it the man's soul took its origin.2 So
if, being good, he had wished a thing not to happen, and if, having

4. 2 On Eve and Mary, Justin, dial. 100; Irenaeus, A.H. v. xix. 1; Tertullian,
de carne Christi 17.

5. 1 Another reference to Sinope and the Cynic Diogenes. Cf. I. 1. 4, 19. 2.
2 On the human soul cf. Chapters 8 and 9, and the treatise de anima.

8268033 H


II. 5 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 99

foreknowledge, he had been aware that it would happen, and if
he had had power and strength to prevent it from happening,
that thing never would have happened which under these three
conditions of divine majesty it was impossible should happen.
But, you conclude, as that did happen, the very opposite is proved,
that God must be assumed to be neither good nor prescient nor
omnipotent: because inasmuch as nothing of that sort could have
happened if God had possessed these attributes of goodness and
prescience and omnipotence, it follows that it did happen because
God is devoid of these qualities.

In answer to this our first task is to prove that the Creator does
possess these characteristics on which doubt is cast, goodness,
that is, and prescience and omnipotence. I shall not take long
over this point, since Christ's own pronouncement gives us the
lead: proofs, he says, are to be drawn from works.b The Creator's
works are evidence of both things: of his goodness in that they are
good, as I have shown: and of his power in that they are so great,
and moreover were made out of nothing. Yet even if derived from
some raw material, as some people will have it,3 even so they
would have been made out of nothing, seeing that once they were
not what they now are. And again, they are great just because
they are good: and God is powerful just because all things are
his, and for that reason he is omnipotent. I have no need to speak
of his foreknowledge: it has for evidence all those whom he has
appointed prophets. And besides, the Author of all things has
this in proof of his foreknowledge, that by ordaining the universe
he foreknew it, and by foreknowing ordained it. I admit he fore-
knew even that transgression: for if he had not he would not have
issued warning against it, under fear of death. Consequently, if
there were in God those faculties in virtue of which no evil either
could have happened to the man or ought to have happened,
and yet none the less it did happen, we have to look at the man's
constitution, asking whether perhaps it was through it that that
happened which from God's side could not have happened. I
observe that the man was created by God as a free man, with
power to choose, and power to act, for himself.4 I can think of

5. 3 See above, p. xi.

4 Legal terms to which Tertullian gives a moral sense: liber, a free man, not
a slave: sui arbitrii, his own master, not a minor under tutelage: suae potestatis,
under his own control, not like a wife in manu et potestate viri.


II. 6 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 101

no clearer indication in him of God's image and similitude than
this, the outward expression of God's own dignity. Countenance
and physical shape vary so widely among mankind that the man
cannot in respect of these have been moulded into the shape of
God, for this is one and unchanging. Rather was it in that sub-
stance which he derived from God himself, the substance of the
soul which corresponds to the form of God, that he received the
distinguishing marks of freedom of choice, and power to act.
That he possessed this dignity was confirmed even by the law
which God then laid down. No law could have been imposed
upon one who had not in his own power the submission due to
the law: nor again, could a threat of death be attached to trans-
gression, unless contempt of the law could have been blamed upon
the man's freedom of choice. So too could you find it in the
Creator's later laws: he sets before man good and evil, life and
death: for that whole course of discipline laid down in precepts,
in which God warns and threatens and exhorts, assumes through-
out that man is possessed of both liberty and initiative, either
to submit or to despise.

6. From now on it is understood that when I maintain that the
man had free power over his own choice, my intention is that the
blame for what happened to him should be imputed to himself
and not to God. Your answer to this may conceivably be that if
the freedom and the control of his will was likely to have ruinous
effect, he ought to have been differently constituted. To forestall
this objection I shall first prove that it was right that he should
be so constituted. Thus I shall strengthen my claim both that he
was so constituted and that such a constitution was to God's
credit, for I shall have put in evidence that superior reason which
called for him to be so constituted. This constitution, like the
rest of creation, will be under the patronage of God's goodness
and his rationality, for in our God these without exception act
in concert. Reason without goodness is not reason, and goodness
without reason is not goodness—unless perhaps in Marcion's god,
who, as I have shown, is irrationally good. It was necessary that
God should be known. This at least is both good and rational.
It was necessary that there should exist something worthy of
knowing God. And could anything be thought of so worthy, as
God's own image and likeness? This too is beyond doubt both


II. 6 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 103

good and rational. So it was necessary that God's image and like-
ness should be endowed with free choice and personal initiative,
so that in it this very fact of freedom and initiative might be
accounted the image and likeness of God: and with this in view
there was given to the man that substance which should be of
this dignity, namely, the breath of God who himself is free and
possesses personal initiative. Besides which, how can it have been
the case that the man, the possessor of the whole world, should
not in first instance have exercised rule over it by possession of
his own mind, should be the master of other things but the slave
of himself? So then in God's condescension you have proof of his
goodness, and in his ordering of things the proof of his rationality.
For the moment let us suppose it to be goodness alone which
bestowed upon the man this great gift of freedom of the will: let
reason make other claim to have been involved in that manner of
endowment. God alone is good by nature, since one who without
beginning has the attributes which he has, has them by nature
and not by grant from another. Man however, who is all that he
is by (God's) granting, since he had a beginning, did with the
beginning come into possession of the form in which he was to
exist. Thus he was not ordained to goodness by nature, but (has
it) by endowment—not possessing goodness of his own, seeing he
was not by nature ordained to goodness, but by endowment—
since God, the Creator of good things, is also good to endow them.
Therefore, so that the man might have a goodness of his own,
bestowed upon him by God, and that there might thenceforth
be in the man a proprietorship and as it were a natural attribute
of goodness, there was granted and assigned to him freedom, and
the power of choice, as a kind of conveyancer of the good be-
stowed on him by God.1 The intention was that this should enable
the man to exhibit goodness as his own, by voluntary act—for
reason further required that goodness should be willingly exer-
cised—that is, by the freedom of choice which favoured the
endowment without being subservient to it. So, in short, would
the man be established in goodness if, according to endowment
yet of his own will, he was now found to be good as it were by a
nature which had become his own. A further intention was that
the man, being free, and with personal initiative, should be bolder

6. 1 On the Roman practice of conveyancing and the function of the libripens see
Ramsay, Rom. Ant., p. 302, or the article on mancipium in Dict. Gk. and Rom. Ant.


II. 7 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 105

in the fight against evil—for God was making provision for this
too—because if he were devoid of this franchise, if he were to
meet his good obligations not of free will but of necessity, he
would lie at the disposal of evil besides, enfeebled by servitude,
a bondservant to evil no less than to good. Consequently there
was granted to him complete freedom of choice in either direc-
tion, that as his own master he might boldly confront goodness
by choosing to maintain it, and evil by choosing to avoid it. And
moreover, since the man was subject to the judgement of God,
it was essential that he should cause that to be a just judgement
by the merits of his own choice, which had to be free. Or else
neither the wages of good nor (the penalty) of evil would with
justice be awarded to one found to be good or evil of necessity
and not of his own will. For this purpose also the law was ap-
pointed, not to forestall liberty but to approve it, by obedience
willingly granted or trespass wilfully committed: thus would free-
dom of choice lie open to either event. It follows that if both the
goodness and the rationality of God are displayed in the freedom
of choice granted to the man, it would not be right to surrender
that primary postulate of goodness and reason which has to be
at the basis of all discussion, and to presume, in view of subsequent
happenings, that God ought not to have given the man that
endowment, on the allegation that its consequence has been other
than creditable to God. Rather one ought to have discerned that
there was good reason for God to have given him this endowment,
and then one ought to examine the remaining questions without
violence to what one had discerned. Otherwise it would be easy, on
coming suddenly face to face with the man's ruin without having
taken note of how he was constituted, to blame his Creator for
what occurred, through failure to take into account the Creator's
reason. To conclude, God's goodness, brought into full view since
the beginning of his works, will give assurance that from God no
evil can have proceeded: while the man's freedom, if taken full
account of, will prove that itself, and not God, was guilty of that
which itself committed.

7. On this principle God keeps all his (attributes and potentiali-
ties) unimpaired—his distinguishing attribute of goodness, and
the rationality of his creative act, as well as his unlimited fore-
knowledge and power. Also you must expect to find in God


II. 7 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 107

complete consistency and unimpeachable faithfulness in all that he
has ordained: you must cease to inquire whether anything could
take place contrary to God's will. For as you insist that in God,
since he is good, there must be both consistency and fidelity, yet
that these must commend themselves in ordinances approved by
reason, you will not think it amiss that God has abstained from
interfering so as to forestall the things he wished should not take
place, and by so doing preserve those he approved of. For having
once granted the man freedom of will, and power to act, and
having, as I have proved, had good reason for granting them,
he had evidently granted them so that they might be put to use,
and that with no further authorization than the fact that he had
made things so: yet they were to be used, as far as concerned him-
self, in accordance with himself, that is, with God, and for a good
end—for surely no one is going to give permission for any act in
opposition to himself—but as regards the man they were to be
used according to the impulses of his own freedom: for anyone
who grants another something to use, invariably grants permis-
sion to use it according to that other's mind and choice. Therefore
it followed that once God had granted the man freedom he must
withdraw from his own freedom, restraining within himself that
foreknowledge and superior power by which he might have been
able to intervene to prevent the man from presuming to use his
freedom badly, and so falling into peril. For if he had intervened
he would have cancelled that freedom of choice which in reason
and goodness he had granted. In fact, suppose him to have
intervened, suppose him to have cancelled that freedom of choice,
by calling the man away from the tree, by keeping that deceiver
the serpent away from converse with the woman, would not
Marcion call out, 'Look at that Lord and Master, so unstable,
so inconsistent and untrustworthy, cancelling appointments he
himself has made. Why did he grant free choice, if he had to inter-
fere? Why interfere, if he has made the grant? Let him choose
on which side he will admit himself mistaken, whether in the
appointment or in the cancelling of it' ? Yet would he not rather,
if he had intervened, at once have given the impression of being
misled by defective foreknowledge of what was to be? And would
not everyone have said that he had made the concession in some
sort of ignorance of what the consequence would be? Yet even
though he foreknew that the man would make a bad use of his


II. 8 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 109

concession, is there anything so becoming to God as consistency
and fidelity in all the appointments he makes? It had to be the
man's responsibility if he failed to make good use of the good gift
he had received. The man himself would be guilty before the
law to which he had refused obedience. There could be no ques-
tion of the Lawgiver infringing his own law by preventing its
conditions from being carried out. You would with good right
make a full-voiced attack on the Creator if, by virtue of the fore-
knowledge and power which you postulate, he had set up a check
against the man's free choice: and so now, you ought to make a
quiet murmuring against yourself, in the Creator's favour, for his
steadfastness and patience and faith, in that he has acted by his
own ordinances, which are both reasonable and good.

8. God had brought the man into being not merely that he might
live, but that he might live in uprightness, in deference, that is,
to God and his law. He had himself given him life, when he made
him a living soul: uprightness of life he imposed upon him as a
duty, when he admonished him to obey the law. That man was
not made for death is proved by this, that God even now desires
his restoration to life, preferring a man's conversion rather than
his death. So then as it was God who clothed the man with the
dignity of life, so it was the man who brought upon himself the
indignity of death: and this he did, not because of feebleness or
ignorance: and so his Creator could not be held to blame. For
even though it was an angel that beguiled him, yet he who was
beguiled was a free man, not under constraint, and the image
and likeness of God is stronger than an angel, even as God's
breathing is of nobler quality than that material spirit of which
the angels are composed—-He maketh spirits angels, it says, and
his apparitors a flame of fire.a
Also he would not have given the
man dominion over the universe if he had been too weak to
rule, and had been no better than those angels to whom he gave
no such dominion. And again, he would not have laid upon him
the weight of the law, if the law had been burdensome and he
too feeble to bear it. Nor would he have made him accountable
to sentence of death if he had known him to be excusable on the
ground of infirmity. Moreover it was not by freedom and the
power of choice that he could have made the man weak, but on
the contrary, by the absence of them. Consequently it is the same


II. 9 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 111

man, the same identity of soul, the same Adam's estate, which
that same power, that same freedom of choice, today makes
victorious over that same devil when it is made to function in
obedience to God's laws.

9. In any case, you object, the Creator's very essence1 is seen to
be capable of sin, since it was the soul, which is the breath of
God, that sinned when man sinned, and the corruption of the
derivative cannot escape being referred back to the original whole.
To answer this I must explain the nature of soul. First and fore-
most we have to insist on the significance of the Greek scripture,
which says not 'spirit' but 'breath'. For some, when translating
from the Greek, fail to reflect upon the difference: disregarding
the precise meaning of the words, they substitute 'spirit' for
'breath', and so give heretics the opportunity of sullying with
sin the Spirit of God, which means God himself. The question is
by no means a new one. Observe then that breath, though a
function of spirit, is something less than spirit—as it might be an
exhalation of spirit, not spirit itself. So a breeze is less compact
than a wind; and even if breeze derives from wind, a breeze is not
a wind. One may even say that breath is an image or reflection of
spirit: for it is in this sense that man is the image of God, that is,
of spirit, since God is spirit. And so breath is an image or reflection
of spirit. Yet the image cannot in every respect be equated with the
reality (behind it): for it is one thing to be 'according to truth' but
quite another to be truth itself. So too, though breath is the image
of spirit, it cannot in such wise be in equality with the image of
God, as to suggest that because the Truth, namely the Spirit,
which is God, is without sin, therefore the breath, which is the
image, ought not to have been capable of sin. The image has to
be inferior to the Truth, and the breath of lower rank than the
Spirit. It admittedly possesses those lineaments of God, in that
soul is immortal, is free, in control of its own choice, is rational,
and on that account frequently exercises forethought, is capable
also of understanding and knowledge, though even in these it is
an image: yet just as it does not attain to the actual power of god-
head, neither does it attain to integrity from sin. This it admits is

9. 1 Cf. III. 6. 8. From John 4: 24, 'God is a Spirit', Tertullian substantified
the term 'spirit' as indicating the kind of substance God is: de anima 11, and
elsewhere, and Irenaeus, A.H. v. xii. 2.


II. 9 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 113

the prerogative of God alone, who is the Truth, and to this alone
the image cannot attain. As the image or reflection expresses
all the lineaments of the truth, yet is devoid of its power because
it lacks motion, so it is with soul, the reflection of spirit: the only
thing it could not express was its power, that blessed state of never
sinning. Else it would not have been soul but spirit, and he who
was endowed with soul would not have been a man but a god.
Also, speaking generally, not everything which is 'of God' can
be held to be God: so you cannot claim that because the breath
is God's breath it is therefore God, and immune from sin. You
yourself do not by blowing into a flute make the flute into a man,
even though you blow something of your own soul, as God did
of his spirit. In fact when scripture says in set terms that God
blew into the man's face and the man was made into a living
soul—not a quickening spirit—, it implies that soul is of quite
different character from its Maker, just as any piece of work is
of necessity different from its producer, and of lower degree than
its producer. A jar made by a potter cannot itself be the potter:
and likewise the breathing made by the Spirit cannot on that
account be spirit. This very fact, that the breath is designated
'soul'—it seems as if it had changed over from the rank or condi-
tion of breath, into some lower quality or degree. 'In that case,'
you object, 'you admit the soul's infirmity, which you just now
denied.' Certainly, when you argue its equality with God, its
immunity from sin, I claim it is weak: but when it is brought into
conflict with an angel I am bound to maintain that (man) the
lord of the universe is the stronger, for already angels do him
service,a and he is sometime to judge angels,b provided he stands
firm in God's law, which in the beginning he refused to do. So
then the breath of God was capable of this disobedience—was
capable of it, though it ought not to have done it. It had the
capability because of the rarefied quality of its substance, in that
it was breath and not spirit: it ought not (to have done it), be-
cause it had power of choice, because it was free and not a slave,
and moreover was assisted by that injunction against transgres-
sion under threat of dying, by which it was intended that the
rarefied quality of the substance should receive support, and its
freedom of decision obtain direction. Thus it becomes evident
that the soul did not sin because of that which it has of kinship
with God, namely his breathing, but because of that which has


II. 10 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 115

become an attribute of that substance, namely free choice: and
because this, though granted by God for good reasons, was driven
by the man in the direction he himself decided. If this is the case,
God's whole ordering of things is now freed from censure. Free-
dom of choice cannot discharge its own blame upon him by whom
it was bestowed, but on him by whom it was not made to function
as it ought. Of what wrong then can you accuse the Creator? If
of man's sin, (I answer that) what is man's cannot be God's, nor
can he be judged the author of sin who is seen to have forbidden
it, even to have condemned it. If death is an evil, not even death
can bring odium upon him who threatened it, but upon him
who disregarded it. This one is its author: he created it by dis-
regarding it, for it would not have come into existence except
for his disregard.

10. But if you transfer the charge of wrongdoing from the man's
account to the devil's, because it was he who incited the man to
sin, and if you hope by this means to direct the blame against
the Creator, as having created the devil—for, He maketh angels
spiritsa
(I answer that) that which he was made by God, namely
an angel, will be the responsibility of God who made him, while
that which he was not made by God, namely the devil or accuser—
it follows that he must have made himself that by bringing an
accusation about God, a false one at that, first that God had
forbidden them to eat of every tree, and next that if they did eat
they would not die, and thirdly that God had selfishly denied
them divinity. What then was the origin of this malice of lying and
deceit directed against the man and woman, and of the false
accusation against God? Certainly it was not from God, for in
common with all his works he had made that angel good. In
fact until he became the devil he is declared the wisest of all:
and I suppose wisdom is no evil. Also if you turn up Ezekiel's
prophecy you will easily perceive that that angel was by creation
good, and by his own act became corrupt.b In the person of the
prince of Tyre this pronouncement is made against the devil:
And the word of the Lord came unto me saying, Son of man, take up a
lamentation upon the prince of Tyre and say, Thus saith the Lord, Thou
art the unsealing of the likeness
—that is, thou hast unsealed (or
annulled) the integrity of the image and likeness—as a crown of
beauty—
thus he speaks as to the most exalted of the angels, an


II. 10 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 117

archangel, the wisest of them all—in the delights of the paradise of
thy God thou wast born—
there, he means, where in the second
creation, under the figure of animals,c God made the angels.1
Thou wast clothed with the precious stone, the sardius, topaz, smaragdus,
carbuncle, sapphire, jasper, lyncurium, agate, amethyst, chrysolite, beryl,
onyx, and didst fill with gold thy storehouses and thy treasuries. Since
the day thou wast created I did set thee with the cherub in the holy moun-
tain of God, thou wast in the midst of the stones of fire, thou wast irre-
proachable in thy days since the day thou wast created, until thine injuries
were discovered. Of the multitude of thy merchandise thou hast filled thy
garners, and hast sinned,
and the rest, which it is evident properly
apply to the castigation not of that particular prince but of an
angel, because no one of mankind has ever been born in the
paradise of God, not even Adam himself, for he was translated
thither: nor has any man been set with the cherub in God's
holy mountain, that is, in the height of heaven, from which our
Lord testifies that Satan also fell:d nor has any man dwelt amid
the stones of fire, among the gleaming rays of the burning con-
stellations, from whence also Satan like lightning was cast down.
Rather was he, the author of sin, being stigmatized in the person
of a sinful man: aforetime irreproachable since the day of his
creation, created by God for goodness, as by a good Creator of
creatures without reproach: adorned with all angelic glory: set
in God's presence, as good in the presence of the good, yet after-
wards by himself transposed into evil. Since the time, he says, that
thy injuries were discovered,
thus imputing to him those injuries by
which he injured the man thrust out from God's obedience. He
began to sin when he sowed the seed of sin, and so from then
onwards was engaged in the multitude of his merchandise, his
wickedness, the full measure of his transgressions: for he also,
being a spirit, was no less (than the man) created with freedom
of choice. Anything so near to himself God cannot but have
established in freedom of that sort. Yet by condemning him before
(the final judgement) God testified that through his own delight
in wickedness voluntarily conceived he had turned aside from
that pattern in which he was created: and by measuring out a

10. 1 The first creation, Gen. 1: 1—2: 3, is here understood to be that of the
ideal world formulated in the mind of God; Gen. 2: 4—25 in that case describes
a second creation, of the actual man in the actual world. That the animals of
Gen. 2: 18-20 were angels is apparently a fancy of Tertullian's own.


II. 11 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 119

set term to his activities God has put into effect the reason behind
his own goodness, delaying the devil's extinction with the same
intent and purpose with which he has deferred the restoration
of man. He has allowed time for a contest, that the man might
cast down his enemy by virtue of that same freedom of choice by
which he had fallen before him, thus proving that the blame was
not God's but his own, and by gaining the victory might honour-
ably regain salvation. Thus the devil would suffer more bitter
punishment, being overcome by him whom he had previously
overthrown: and God would the more evidently be seen to be
good, as he waited for the man to return back from (this present)
life into paradise, now more glorious (than when driven out),
with permission also to take and eat of the tree of life.

11. Therefore it is that God, who until the man had sinned had
from the beginning been solely good, from thenceforth became
a judge, stern and, since the Marcionites will have it so, cruel.
The woman is straightway condemned to bring forth in sorrow,
and to be in service to her husband. Previously she had been
taught of the increase of mankind without any cause for grief,
in the words of the blessing, Increase and multiply,a no more than
that: she had also been intended for a help to the man, not for
servitude to him. Straightway also the earth is cursed, which had
previously been blessed: straightway there are thorns and thistles
where before there had been grass, when it was fruitful of the
green herb and of trees. Straightway there is sweat and toil for
bread, though before from every tree there was livelihood without
stint, and food in sure supply. From now on the man is bent down
towards the earth, who before was taken out of the earth: from
now on turned towards death, though previously towards life:
from now on in coats of skins, who before had been naked and
unashamed. Thus the goodness of God came first, as his nature
is: his sternness came afterwards, as there was reason for it. The
former was ingenerate, was God's own, was freely exercised: the
latter was accidental, adapted to need, an expedient. For as it
was not right that nature should hold its goodness in restraint and
inoperative, neither was it seemly that reason should dissemble
and escape its sternness. The former was God's duty paid to him-
self, the latter his duty to circumstances. Begin next to accuse the
office of judge of being in kinship with evil. That is why you have


II. 12 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 121

dreamed up another god whose sole attribute is goodness: a judge,
you cannot away with. Yet I have proved that this god also is a
judge—or, if not a judge, unquestionably perverse and ineffective,
establishing a rule of conduct he has no intention of enforcing,
no intention, that is, of bringing under judgement. When you
express approval of a god who is no judge, it is not the God who
is a judge whom you express disapproval of: you will be forced,
no question of it, to lay accusation against justice itself—for this
it is that causes any man to be a judge—classing it as one of the
varieties of evil: which means that you will have to include
injustice among the subheadings of goodness. Justice is an evil
thing only if injustice is a good one. But since you are compelled
to pronounce injustice one of the worst of things, by the same
method of reckoning you are forced to rank justice among the
best things: for everything hostile to evil is good, even as nothing
that is hostile to the good can help being evil. Consequently, in
so far as injustice is an evil thing, to the same extent justice is
a good thing. Nor is it to be reckoned as merely a variety of
goodness, but as the safeguard of it, because unless goodness is
governed by justice so as itself to be just, it cannot be goodness:
for it will be unjust. Nothing that is unjust can be good, and
everything that is just is bound to be good.

12. So then since, goodness and justice are in such close associa-
tion and agreement that the separation of one from the other is
inconceivable, how can you dare to postulate an opposition be-
tween two gods, counting out separately on the one side a good
god and on the other side a just one? Goodness is firmly estab-
lished where justice also is. Since the beginning then the Creator
is both good and just, both just and good. Both qualities came
into evidence at the same time. His goodness constructed the
world, his justice regulated it, since it even then judged that the
world must be fashioned of good <materials>: thus did judgement
take counsel with goodness. It was by an act of justice that separa-
tion was decreed between light and darkness, between day and
night, between heaven and earth, between the water above and
the water below, between the gathering together of the sea
and the building up of the dry land, between the greater lights
and the lesser, between those of the day and those of the night,
between male and female, between the tree of knowledge of death


II. 13 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 123

and of life, between the world and paradise, between animals
born in the water and animals born on land.1 As soon as goodness
had conceived them all, justice distinguished between them. By
an act of justice this whole was established and set in order. Every
position and every situation of the heavenly bodies, the activities,
motions, and conjunctions, the risings and settings, of each one
of them, are the Creator's judgements. So that you have no need
to suppose that he could only be described as a judge after evil
had appeared, and thus bring justice into disrepute as the out-
come of evil. By these considerations I have shown that it came
into existence simultaneously with that goodness which is the
origin of everything, and that it must be set down as ingenerate in
God, natural and in no sense adventitious, since it is found to have
been present in the Lord when it was the judge and divider of
his works.

13. Yet when afterwards evil had broken loose, and the goodness
of God had from thenceforth to deal with an opponent, that same
justice acquired for itself another function, that of guiding good-
ness along the path of censure and correction, in such sort that,
God having set aside that liberality which offered no check to his
goodness, his goodness should be measured out according to each
man's deserts, granted to the worthy, denied to the unworthy,
taken away from the ungrateful, and in this way vindicated against
all opponents. Thus the whole of this work of justice is a service
done to goodness: the fact that by judgement God condemns,
that by condemnation he punishes—that, as you put it, he
exercises severity—tends to good and not to evil. In short the
fear of judgement contributes to good, not to evil. The good, now
burdened down beneath an adversary, was not strong enough of
itself to provide its own commendation. Even if it had been
capable of commending itself, it was in danger of overthrow by
the adversary, and only capable of conserving itself if it were
under the protection of such fear as might force even the reluc-
tant to seek after the good and protect it. But while all those entice-
ments of evil were in process of overpowering the good, was anyone
likely to seek after that which he could with impunity disregard?
Was anyone likely to protect that which he could lose without

12. 1 Cf. 1.16.


II. 14 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 125

further risk? It is written that the way of evil is broad, and well
supplied with travellers:a would not all men take its easy course
if there were nothing to fear? Though we stand in terror of the
Creator's fearsome threatenings, even so we are not easily
wrenched away from evil. What if there were no threatening?
Justice of this sort, which shows no favour to evil, can you call it
an evil? Justice which has the good in view, can you deny it is
a form of goodness? What sort of god ought you to seek after?
What sort of god would it be profitable for you to prefer? One
under whom sins might disport themselves, one whom the devil
could play tricks with? Would you judge that a good god who
found it easier to make a man bad by letting him sin and not
suffer? Is there ever any author of good who is not also an exactor
of it? Is there any stranger to evil who is not also its opponent?
Is there any opponent who does not also attack? Does anyone
attack, and not also punish? Thus is God wholly good, in that he
is all and everything in favour of the good. Thus in effect is he
almighty, in that he is mighty both to help and to hurt. It is a
lesser thing to show nothing but favour, because of inability to
show anything but favour. With what confidence should I hope
for goodness from such a one, if goodness is all he is capable
of? How could I strive after the wages of innocence, if I had
not also regard to the wages of guilt? I should have to be
doubtful of his granting a reward in either direction if he were
not competent to do so in both. To such a degree as this is justice
even the plenitude of divinity itself, that it reveals God in his
perfection both as Father and as Lord: as Father in clemency, as
Lord in discipline: as Father in kindly authority, as Lord in that
which is stern: as Father to be loved from affection, as Lord to be
necessarily feared: to be loved because he would rather have
mercy than sacrifice, to be feared because he forbids to sin: to
be loved because he would rather have a sinner's repentance than
his death, to be feared because he refuses such as do not now
repent. For that reason the law lays down both these command-
ments, Thou shalt love God,b and, Thou shall fear God:c the one it
sets before the obedient, the other before the transgressor.

14. God meets, you will find, all situations. The same God
smites, and also heals: he kills, and also makes alive: he brings
down, and also raises up: he creates evils, but also makes peace.


II. 14 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 127

So that on this question too I have to answer the heretics. See,
they say, he himself claims to be the creator of evil things when
he says, It is I who create evil things.a They gladly welcome the
equivocation which mixes up in ambiguity two sorts of evils.
Because not only sins but also punishments are described as evil,
they will have God understood to be in every sense the creator
of evils, that so they may pass sentence upon him as the author of
wickedness. We however take note of the difference between the
two kinds, making a distinction between evils of sin and evils
of punishment, between evils of guilt and evils of penalty, and
insist that each part has its own originator—the devil the author
of evils of sin and guilt, but God the Creator the author of evils
of punishment and penalty—and in this way the one sort is
assigned to wickedness, the other to the justice of him who sets
up the evils of judgement against the evils of sin. So the Creator's
statement refers to those evils which appertain to a judge, which
indeed are evil to those on whom they are inflicted, though on
their own account they are good things because they are just
things, defensive of good deeds and hostile to sins, and in this
respect worthy of God. Else you must prove them unjust: only
so can you prove they are to be classed as wickedness—that is,
that they are evils of injustice: because if they belong to justice
they will no longer be evil, but good, being evil only to evil men,
by whom even unconditionally good things are condemned as
evil. In such a case you will have to decide that it is unjust that
the man, having wilfully despised the law of God, should have re-
ceived that retribution which he would have preferred to escape:
that the wickedness of the old world was unjustly smitten by
a flood and afterwards by fire: that it was unjust that Egypt,
diseased and superstitious, and, what is more, the oppressor of
Israel its guest, should be stricken with tenfold chastisement. God
hardens Pharaoh's heart: but Pharaoh already deserved to be
given over to destruction, as having already denied God, as
having in his pride so often cast out God's messengers, as having
already added to the burden of Israel's labours: and lastly, as an
Egyptian, he had from of old been guilty before God of gentile
idolatry, worshipping the ibis and the crocodile more readily
than the living God. He afflicts even Israel, but because they are
ungrateful: he sent bears against certain children, but they had
been showing disrespect to a prophet.


II. 16 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 129

15. First then you have to inquire into the justice of a judge's
act: if it has reasons which stand up to examination, then his
severity also, and the acts in which severity pursues its course,
must be accounted both reasonable and just. So, to save lingering
over too many matters, I challenge you to set out any other rea-
sons you may have for pronouncing his sentences wrong: find
excuses for the sins, so that you may show disapproval of the
judgements. Forbear to censure him for being a judge: convict
him (if you can) of being a bad judge. Even if he visited the
fathers' sins upon the children, it was Israel's hardness which
demanded remedies of that sort, to cause them to obey the divine
law at least through consideration for their posterity: for surely
any man will be more concerned for his children's safety than
for his own. Moreover, if the fathers' blessing was also to be
passed on to their seed, without any previous merit of theirs, why
should not the fathers' guilt also overflow upon their sons? As
with God's favour, so with his displeasure: to the end that both
the favour and the displeasure should have course through their
whole posterity, yet without prejudice to that decree which was
afterwards to be made, that men should cease to say that the
fathers had eaten the sour grapes and the children's teeth been
set on edgea—which means that the father would not take upon
him the son's sin, nor the son his father's sin, but that everyone
would bear the guilt of his own sin: and thus, after Israel's hard-
ness, the hardness of the law might also be subdued, and justice
no longer judge the nation but individuals. And yet, if you were
to accept the gospel in its true form, you would learn to whom
applies this judgement of God who turns the fathers' sins back
upon their children, namely to those who were, at a tune then
future, going of their own will to call down this judgement upon
themselves, His blood be on our heads and on our children's.b So then
God's foresight in its fullness passed censure upon this which he
heard long before it was spoken.

16. Severity therefore is good because it is just, if indeed the
judge is good—that is, is just. So also are the rest of those (activi-
ties) good by which the good work of good severity takes its
course—whether it be anger or hostility or ferocity. All these are
debts owed to severity, as severity is a debt to justice. There was
need to reprimand the insolence of youth which had the duty

8268033 K


II. 16 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 131

of respect. So the judge must not be held to reproach for the
consequences of his judgeship, so long as these in their turn are
void of blame, as the judge is. A case in point: suppose you allow
that the surgeon has the right to exist, yet lodge a complaint
against his instruments because they dissect and cauterize and
amputate and constrict—although he can be no surgeon without
the tools of his trade. Complain, if you like, when he dissects
badly, amputates at the wrong time, cauterizes without need:
in that case you may also reprimand his instruments as bad
servants. It is much the same when you admit that God is a judge,
yet refuse those emotions and feelings by which he exercises
judgement. Our knowledge of God comes to us from the prophets
and from Christ, not from the philosophers or from Epicurus.
We believe that God has sojourned even on earth, and that for the
purpose of man's salvation he has taken upon him the lowliness
of human form: we are far removed from the sentiments of those
who allege that a god takes no interest in anything. It is from
these that the heretics in turn have derived an assertion of this
sort—that if a god becomes angry or hostile or proud or em-
bittered, he will be liable to corruption, and so must die. But
well it is that Christians are allowed to believe that God has even
died, and yet is alive for ever and ever. O these fools, who from
things human form conjectures about things divine, and because
in mankind passions of this sort are taken to be of a corruptive
character, suppose that in God also they are of the same quality.
Distinguish the substances, and assign to each its own sensations,
as diverse as the substances demand, even though they are seen
to make use of the same terminology.1 We read of God's right
hand, his eyes, his feet: yet these are not to be supposed exactly
the same as a man's, just because they partake of the same
designation. Great is the unlikeness of divine body and human,
though their members are identical in name: equally great must
be the difference of divine mind and human, though their sensa-
tions are referred to in the same terms. And as in man it is the
corruptibility of the human substance which makes these a cause
of corruption, so it is in God the incorruptibility of the divine
substance which makes them no cause of corruption. You admit,
I suppose, that the Creator is a god. Certainly, you agree. Then

16. 1 See Appendix 1.


II. 17 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 133

how is it you reckon there is in God something human, instead
of everything divine? You do not deny his godhead: you admit
he is not human. As soon as you have admitted his godhead you
have at once decided that he is the opposite of everything charac-
teristic of human circumstances. Also, since you no less acknow-
ledge that man by God's breathing was made into a living soul,
and not that God was so made by man, it is highly inconsistent
of you to put human characteristics in God rather than divine
characteristics in man, and to clothe God with man's image rather
than man with God's. So then the image of God in man is to be
understood in this fashion, that the human mind has the same
emotions and sensations as God has, yet not of the same quality
as God has: in accordance with their substance both their actuality
and their consequences are far apart. Also the opposite sensations
to these, gentleness, patience, mercy, and that goodness which is
the origin of them all—on what ground do you assume them
divine? In perfection, I admit, we do not possess them, for God
alone is perfect. So also those other emotions, of anger, I mean,
and exasperation, we experience with no such felicity, for felicity
appertains to God alone, because of the incorruptibility which
belongs to him and to no one else. He can be angry without
(being shaken), can be annoyed without coming into peril, can
be moved without being overthrown. He must needs bring all
things into operation for all things' sake, as many sensations as
there are causes for them: anger because of the wicked, indigna-
tion because of the ungrateful, hostility because of the proud, and
for all evil men whatever is a hindrance to them. So also mercy
because of the erring, patience because of those not yet repentant,
generosity because of those who deserve it, and whatever it is
the good have need of. All these he experiences in his own particu-
lar manner, that manner in which it is seemly for him to ex-
perience them: and because of him man also experiences the
same, himself no less in his own particular manner.

17. These facts thus expounded show how God's whole activity
as judge is the artificer and, to put it more correctly, the protector
of his all-embracing and supreme goodness. The Marcionites
refuse to admit in that same God the presence of this goodness,
clear of judicial sentiments, and in its own state unadulterated.


II. 17 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 135

Yet the facts show him sending rain upon good and evil, and
making his sun to rise upon just and unjust:a of which that other
god makes no sort of provision. For although Marcion has pre-
sumed to erase from the gospel this testimony of Christ to the
Creator, yet the whole world is inscribed with it, and every man's
conscience reads it there.b This same patience of the Creator will
serve for judgement against Marcion—that patience which looks
for a sinner's repentance rather than his death, and would rather
have mercy than sacrifice: which turns away from the men of
Nineveh the destruction already determined, which grants to
Hezekiah's tears an extended term of life, and, after penance
performed, restores to the tyrant of Babylon his royal state. I
speak of that mercy which granted to the people in arms Saul's
son, due to die for an oath's sake: which gave David free pardon
when he confessed the wrong done to Uriah's house, and which
to Israel itself as often gave restoration as judgement, as often
gave comfort as reproof. So then, look not only at the judge, but
turn also to the evidences of one supremely good. You take note
of his vengeance: think also of when he is indulgent. Balance
sternness with gentleness. When you have met with both of these
in the Creator, you will also discover in him that in search of
which you believe there is another god. Come near then, and
carefully inquire into his doctrines, disciplines, precepts, and
counsels. You will suggest perhaps that these are regulated even
by human laws. But all your Lycurguses and Solons came long
after Moses and God, and all things that come later borrow from
things which were there first. In any case, it was not from your
god that my Creator learned to command, Thou shall not kill,
shalt not commit adultery, shall not steal, shalt not speak false testi-
mony, shalt not desire what is another's, honour father and mother, and
thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.c
To these cardinal advices of
innocency, chastity, justice, and family affection, are added also
the rules of humanity, that in every seventh year bond-servants
are let go free: and that at the same period the field is left un-
tilled, to give a place to the needy: as also the ox when treading
out the corn has his muzzle unloosed, to give him satisfaction as
he does his work: and this so that human kindness, having had
previous practice among the cattle, might be further developed
for the comfort of mankind.


II. 18 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 137

18. None of the good things of the law do I find it more natural
to defend than those which heresy has sought to break down. One
of these is that law of equivalent retribution which demands an
eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a bruise for a bruise. Its
intention is not to give licence for the mutual exercise of injury:
rather has it in view the total restraint of violence. To that stiff-
necked people, devoid of faith in God, it seemed a tiresome thing,
or even beyond credence, to expect from God that vengeance
which was afterwards to be promised by the prophet—(Leave)
vengeance to me, and I will avenge, saith the Lord.a
So meanwhile the
intention was that the infliction of injury should be kept in
restraint through fear of retaliation immediately to follow, and
that permission to return an injury might serve to prevent provoca-
tion. In this way unrestrained insolence would be kept in check,
since permission for a second injury makes people afraid to begin
with the first, and when the first is scared away there is no com-
mission of the second. Besides this, the fear of equal retribution
is more readily effective when the injury to be suffered is of the
same flavour: there is no more bitter experience than for your-
self to suffer the very same thing that you have done to others.

Also when the law places restraint upon certain foods, and
pronounces unclean certain animals which have at other tunes
received a blessing, you must understand there an advice on the
exercise of self-restraint, and observe how a bridle was put upon
that gluttony which, while it was eating the bread of angels,
hankered after the cucumbers and pumpkins of the Egyptians.
Observe too that there was also consideration of those con-
comitants of gluttony, lust and lechery, which for the most part
cool down when the belly is under discipline: for, The people had
eaten and drunk, and risen up to play.b
And further, so that greed of
money should be kept in check,—at least in so far as the expense
of living is alleged as an excuse for it—rivalry in the use of expen-
sive varieties of food was put down. And lastly, (the purpose was)
that men might more easily be in form for fasting in the service
of God, being accustomed to scanty victuals of no great repute,
and having no desire to feed on delicacies. No doubt the Creator
is open to criticism for having deprived his own people of food,
rather than the less thankful Marcionites.

Nor should anyone find fault with the burdensome expense of
sacrifices and the troublesome scrupulosities of services and


II. 19 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 139

oblations, as though God needed such things for his own sake:
for he clearly and loudly demands, What use to me the multitude
of your sacrifices?
and, Who hath required these things at your hands?1,c

One should rather see there that careful interest by which, when
the people were prone to idolatry and transgression, God was
content to attach them to his own religion by the same sort of
observances in which this world's superstition was engaged, hoping
to detach them from this by commanding them to do these things
for him, as though he were in need of them, and so keep that
people from the sin of making images.

19. Also in the actual exchanges of human life and converse both
domestic and public, the law has made all manner of regulations,
up to and including the care of cups and platters, so that as men
were faced at every point with these legal disciplines they might
never for an instant be unoccupied with thoughts of God. For
what is more capable of making a man blessed than that his de-
light should be in the law of the Lord? And in the law of the Lord
will he meditate day and night.a
This law was not laid down because
of its Author's hardness, but by reason of that supreme kindness
which preferred to tame the people's hardness, and smooth down
with exacting obligations their faith as yet unpractised in obedience.
I say nothing of the law's secret and sacred meanings, although
it is both spiritual and prophetic, and in almost all its concepts
has a figurative significance. It is enough for the present that,
without figurative meaning, it was putting man under obligation
to God: and therefore none have any right to complain, except
such as take no pleasure in God's service. So as to carry further
this good gift, not burden, of the law, that same goodness of God
has also appointed prophets who teach of godly conduct—to
remove wickedness from the soul,b to learn to do well, to seek
judgement, to judge for the fatherless and maintain the cause
of the widow, to love requests (for God's guidance), to flee from
association with the wicked, to let the afflicted go free, to break
down the unjust accusation, to share one's bread with the hungry
and take into one's house him that has no roof of his own—If
thou seest the naked cover him, and despise not the kinsmen of thine own
seedc
to keep one's tongue from evil, and one's lips that they
speak no guile, to depart from evil and to do good, to seek peace

18. 1 On Isaiah 1: 11, 12 cf. epist. Barnab. 2. 4 sqq.: Justin, dial. 22.


II. 20 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 141

and pursue it,d to be angry and not sine—that is, not persist in
anger, nor be enraged—, not to go away into the council of the
impious or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of the
pestilent.f But where? Behold how good and joyful a thing it is for
brethren to dwell in unity,g
meditating day and night on the law of
the Lord, because it is better to trust in the Lord than to trust in
a man, and to hope in the Lord than to hope in a man.h For
what is to be a man's reward with God? And he shall be like a tree
planted by the channels of water, which shall render its fruit at its own
season, and its leaf shall not fall: and all things whatsoever he doeth shall
be made prosperous for him.i
The innocent also and the pure in
heart, who has not taken the name of God in vain, and has not
sworn to his neighbour in deceit, he shall receive blessing from the
Lord and mercy from God his Saviour.
For the eyes of the Lord are upon
them that fear him, that hope in his mercy, to deliver their souls from
death—
eternal death—and to feed them in hungerj—hunger for life
eternal. For many are the troubles of the righteous, and the Lord will
deliver them from them all. Honourable in the sight of the Lord is the
death of his saints: the Lord keepeth all their bones, and not one of them
shall be broken. The Lord shall redeem the souls of his servants.k
These
few sentences have I adduced out of all the Creator's scriptures,
and I suppose nothing is now lacking for testimony to a God
exceeding good: for this is well enough certified both by his
precepts of goodness and by its rewards.

20. Now these cuttlefish—it was for a type of these people that
the law excluded that sort of fish-meat, among others, from the
(permitted) foods—as soon as they become aware of this exposure
of themselves, proceed to belch out darkness mixed up with
blasphemy, and thus distract the immediate attention of this
man and that by the assertion and reiteration of statements which
cast a cloud over the Creator's goodness, though this is bright
and clear. But I shall pursue their malice even through this black-
ness, dragging out into daylight those devices of darkness which
cast up against the Creator, among much else, that damage,
robbery of gold and silver, which he enjoined upon the Hebrews
against the Egyptians.1 Come now, unhappy heretic, I challenge
you in person to be arbitrator: first take cognizance of the claims
against the two nations, and then you may pass judgement

20. 1 Cf. Irenaeus, A.H. iv. xlvi. 1-3.


II. 21 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 143

against the Author of that command. The Egyptians demand of the
Hebrews the return of their vessels of gold and silver: the Hebrews
put forward a contrary plea, alleging, in the name of those same
ancestors, and with that same scripture for documentary evidence,
that wages ought to be paid to them for that slave-labour, the
drawing of the brick-kilns and the building of towns and country
houses. What award are you to make, you that have found for
yourself a god supremely good? That the Hebrews ought to
admit the damage done, or the Egyptians the compensation due?
For they report that the case was so stated by agents from the
two sides, the Egyptians claiming the return of their vessels, and
the Jews demanding the wages of their work: yet that there the
Egyptians with justice renounced their claim to the vessels. Today,
in spite of the Marcionites, the Hebrews put forward a further
claim. They say that however large the amount of that gold and
silver, it is not adequate for compensation, if the labour of six hun-
dred thousand men through all those years is priced at a penny a
day each. Again, which are the larger number, those who demand
the return of their vessels, or those who dwell in the country-
houses and cities? In that case which is the greater, the loss the
Egyptians complain of, or the favour the Hebrews enjoyed? If
the Hebrews were in return to bring against the Egyptians no
more than an action for personal injuries, (they were) free men
reduced to slavery. If their legal representatives were to display
in court no more than their shoulders scarred with the abusive
outrage of whippings, (any judge) would have agreed that the
Hebrews must receive in recompense not just a few dishes and
flagons—for in any case the rich are always the fewer in number—
but the whole of those rich men's property, along with the contri-
butions of the populace besides. So then, if the Hebrews have
a good case, the case, which means the commandment, of the
Creator is equally good: he made the Egyptians favourable,
though they were unaware of it, and at the time of their exodus
he provisioned his own people with some slight indemnification,
a payment of damages not described as such. And clearly he told
them to exact too little: the Egyptians ought to have given back
to the Hebrews their male children as well.

21. So also in the rest of his acts you accuse him of incon-
sequence and inconsistency, alleging that his instructions are in


II. 22 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 145

contradiction with one another: he forbids labour on sabbath days,
and yet at the storming of the city of Jericho he commands the ark
to be carried round during eight days which include the sabbath.
This is because you neglect to look closely at the law concerning
the sabbath, which forbids not divine but human labours. For
it says, Six days shall thou labour, and do all thy works, but on the seventh
day are sabbaths to the Lord thy God: on it thou shall not do any work.a
What work? Evidently, 'of your own'. It follows then that he was
withdrawing from the sabbath those works which he had just
appointed for the six days, 'thy works', meaning human daily
tasks. But to carry the ark round cannot be considered a daily
task, or a human one, but an infrequent one, a holy one, and,
in view of God's actual command, a divine one. I might myself
have enlarged upon the significance of this, but that it would take
too long to explain the figurative meanings of every one of the
Creator's activities—meanings to which perhaps you demur. It
is quite enough if you people are refuted by plain facts, by straight-
forward truth, with nothing recondite: as in the present instance
there is a clear definition of the sabbath as forbidding not divine
but human works. Consequently the man who had gone out on
the sabbath to gather sticks, was put to death: he had been doing
his own work, a thing the law forbade. But those who had carried
the ark about on the sabbath, were not punished: it was not their
own work, they had been engaged in, but God's, as his actual
commandment enjoined.

22. In the same way, when he forbids the making of the likeness
of any of the things in heaven and in earth and in the waters, he
explains also the reasons for it—reasons which keep in check that
upon which idolatry is based—for he adds, Tie shall not worship
them nor serve them.a
But the image of the brazen serpent which the
Lord afterwards commanded Moses to make,b had no reference
to the clause concerning idolatry, but to the healing of those who
were plagued with serpents.1 I say nothing of the figurative sense
of that healing. So also the cherubim and seraphim of gold, for
that figurative prototype the ark, were certainly a mere adorn-
ment, being designed to enhance its dignity. They had a purpose
entirely opposite to that idolatrous propensity on account of which
the making of a likeness is prohibited, and evidently are no
22. 1 The brazen serpent justified by the occasion, Justin, dial. 94.

8268033 L


II. 23 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 147

infringement of the law which prohibits likenesses, for they are
not convicted of being in that class of likeness on account of which
a likeness is prohibited. I have already spoken of his institution
of sacrifices, and of the reason for them: he was recalling the
people, I said, from idols to their duties towards God. If he after-
wards rejected these when he said, To what purpose the multitude of
your sacrifices to me?,c
he desired them to understand that his
earlier demand for these had not been for his own particular
benefit. I will not, he says, drink the blood of bulls: for the reason that,
as he says in another place, The eternal God shall neither hunger nor
thirst.d
For although he had respect to Abel's offerings, and smelled
the sweet savour of Noah's whole burnt sacrifices, what pleasure
is there either in sheep's entrails or the stench of burning victims?
But the guileless and god-fearing mind of such as offered to God
things God had given to them, whether of food or of sweet in-
cense, was accounted for grace in God's sight, even though he
made no demand for the sacrifices offered but for that on account
of which they were offered, the honour of God. If the dependent
of a wealthy man or a monarch, even though his patron is in
need of nothing, offers him some trivial gift, will the smallness
and cheapness of the gift darken the countenance of that wealthy
man or king? Will not rather the token of respect afford him
pleasure? But if that dependent when his turn comes round offers
him gifts, whether voluntary or requisitioned, and performs the
services due to a king, yet not out of true fidelity or of a pure
heart, but a heart not fully intent upon the rest of his obligations,
will not the consequence be that the king or the rich man will
exclaim, To what purpose the multitude of your services to me? I am
weary;
and, Those solemnities and festal days and sabbaths of yours?e
When he says 'of yours', he means those which by celebrating
them according to their own desires and not according to God's
religion, they had made into their own, and not God's. In this
he clearly indicated that his rejection of the services he had him-
self enjoined was a rejection for special circumstances and particu-
lar reasons.

23. You suggest that the Creator is proved capricious concerning
persons as well as institutions, when he expresses disapproval of
men previously approved of: or else that he is lacking in foresight
when he approves of men who will afterwards meet with his


II. 24 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 149

disapproval. You allege that he is either reversing his previous
judgements or is ignorant of those he will afterwards make. And
yet there is nothing more seemly in a good man or a good judge
than to reject men or promote them in view of their current
deserts. Saul is promoted, when not yet a despiser of the prophet
Samuel. Solomon is rejected, when he is now in bondage to
foreign wives and in subjection to the idols of the Moabites and
Sidonians. What could the Creator have done, to escape being
reprimanded by Marcionites? Ought he, in view of wrong-doing
to come, to have condemned in advance men who were still
acting aright? But it would not have been the act of a good God
to condemn in advance men who did not yet deserve it. Or again,
ought he to refrain from rejecting present sinners, on account
of their previous good services? But it would not have been the
act of a just judge to condone crimes, when previous good services
had been cancelled out. Again, who among men is so without
fault that God could always promote him, as one whom he could
never reject? Or who is so utterly devoid of any good work, that
God should always reject him, as one whom he could never
promote? Show us a man always good, and he shall never be
rejected: show us a man always bad, and he shall never be
promoted. But here you have one and the same man: he is both
bad and good at one time or another, and so must be rewarded
with both one and the other, and this by God who is a good god
and a good judge, who does not reverse his judgements through
caprice or lack of foresight, but does by a censorial act of supreme
consistency and clearest foresight award exactly the recompense
which each occasion requires.

24. So again, because God said, It repenteth me that I have made
Saul king
,a you set a base interpretation upon his repenting, as
though it were owing to caprice, or lack of foresight, or even to
a recollection of (his own) wrongdoing, that he repented: for
you have made it a standing rule that repentance implies con-
fession of some evil act or some mistake. But at times it does not.
There are instances of a profession of repentance even in reference
to good deeds, so as to cast reproach or reproof upon one who has
shown himself ungrateful for the benefit. Thus it was on that
occasion regarding the person of Saul. He had been proclaimed
as honourable by the Creator, who committed no sin when he


II. 24 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 151

set Saul up in the kingdom and ennobled him with the Holy
Spirit. There was not, it says, among the children of Israel one so goodly
as he
:b and most fittingly God had appointed him. Also he was
not ignorant that things would turn out as they did: for no one
can tolerate your attributing lack of foresight to that God who,
even by tacitly acknowledging him to be a god, you admit also
has foresight. This indeed is an essential attribute of his divinity.
But it was, as I have said, Saul's evil act that God was accusing by
this profession of his own repentance: and as there was no sin
in his appointment of Saul, it follows that his repentance must be
understood as a reproach, not an admission of error. 'But look,'
you reply, 'I observe that it is an admission of error in respect
of the Ninevites, for the writing of Jonah says, And God repented
of the wickedness which he had said he would do unto them, and he did
it not:c
as also Jonah himself says to God, Therefore I made haste to
flee unto the Tarsians, because I knew that thou art gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness, and repentest of the wickednesses.'d
Now it is as well that he begins by describing God in terms su-
premely good, very slow to anger towards evil men, and most
abundant in kindness and mercy towards such as acknowledge
and lament their sins—which the Ninevites were then doing.
For as this is a characteristic of one supremely good, you ought
to have begun by admitting in respect of him that in one of this
character, one supremely good, the coexistence of wickedness is
not possible. And since even Marcion retains (the statement)
that a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruits, and yet (the
scripture) has used the word 'wickedness'—which one supremely
good is incapable of—surely there remains the possibility of some
interpretation by which to understand the kind of wickednesses
which can have come to exist in one supremely good. And such
there is. In fact I affirm that by wickedness in this context is
signified not such as can be referred back to the Creator's nature,
as though he were evil, but to his authority, because he is a judge.
It was in view of this that he declared, It is I who create evils,e and,
Behold I send evils against you;f not evils of ill-doing but evils of
vengeance—and I have already cleared away the ill repute of
these by showing them to be fit and proper for a judge. As then,
though described as evils, they are no matter of disrepute in a
judge, nor by being so described do they stigmatize the judge as
evil, so also 'wickedness' in this context must now be understood


II. 24 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 153

as that which, deriving from those judiciary evils, is along with
them proper to a judge. Also among the Greeks occasionally
'wickednesses' is written for discomforts and injuries, not for
acts of malice: and so it is in this passage. Consequently, if it was
this kind of 'wickedness' the Creator repented of—I mean, that
his creatures were to be put to reproof and condemned to destruc-
tion—even so, no illegal act can be ascribed to the Creator, who
had rightly and deservedly decided that that exceedingly wicked
city must be destroyed. As then his purpose, being a just one, was
not evil, he had decided upon it for justice's sake, not from wicked-
ness: yet (the scripture) has described the punishment itself as
'wickedness' because of the well-deserved evil of what they were
to suffer. 'In that case,' you will object, 'if you are finding excuse
for wickedness under the name of justice, because he had with
justice decided upon the destruction of the Ninevites, he is still
open to blame for having become repentant of an act of justice
which ought not to have been repented of.' I answer, that God's
repentance cannot have been of the act of justice: so that we still
need to discover what is meant by the repentance of God. A man
for the most part repents as a result of the remembrance of sin,
and occasionally also in consequence of someone's ingratitude
for a kindness done: it does not follow that God does the same.
For inasmuch as God neither commits an evil act nor condemns
a good one, there is in him no room for repentance of either good
or evil. This too you will find clearly stated in the same scrip-
ture when Samuel says to Saul, The Lord hath rent the kingdom of
Israel out of thy hand today, and will give it to thy neighbour who is
better than thou, and Israel shall be split into two parts, and (the Lord)
will not be converted nor repent, because he is not like a man,
that he should repent.g
So then this precise statement lays it down
that in all cases divine repentance is of a special character, and
cannot, as human repentance may, be ascribed to lack of fore-
sight, or to capriciousness, or to the condemnation of any act of
his, either good or bad. What then must be the manner of God's
repenting? This is already perfectly clear, so long as you do not
relate it to human conditions. It is to be understood as neither
more nor less than a simple reversal of a previous decision, such
as can be brought about without any adverse judgement upon
that other. This is possible even in a man: much more so in God,
whose every decision is free from blame. Also, in Greek speech the


II. 25 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 155

word for repentance is not derived from confession of wrong-
doing, but is a compound word signifying change of mind: and
in God, as I have shown, this change is directed by the impact
of facts, themselves subject to variation.

25. Next, so as to clear all matters of this sort out of the way, I
shall proceed to interpret and cleanse the rest of what you take to be
instances of pettiness and weakness and inconsequence. God calls
out, Adam, where art thou?,a as though he did not know where the
man was: and when Adam has given as his reason the shame of
his nakedness God asks whether it was because he had eaten of
the tree—as though he had any doubt about it. In fact he was
neither in doubt of the deed nor ignorant of the hiding-place. It
was, for all that, essential that one in hiding through consciousness
of sin should be summoned to come out into God's presence not
by the mere calling of his name but along with some rebuke, then
and there, for his deed. For we ought to read this in no simple
manner, not with an interrogative intonation, 'Where art thou,
Adam?', but in an insistent and incisive and accusative tone, Adam,
where thou art!—
which means, Thou art in perdition—which
means, Thou art no longer here—so that the words spoken may
end in reproof and in sorrow.1 Moreover, seeing he grasps the
whole world in his hand like a nest, seeing the heaven is his throne
and the earth his footstool, do you suppose that some small corner
of paradise had escaped his notice, or that, wherever Adam was,
even before God called him, he was not in full view while hiding,
no less than while taking of the forbidden fruit? Neither the wolf
nor the petty pilferer escapes the notice of the keeper of your
vineyard or garden: and I suggest that God has sharper eyesight,
and looks out from a higher platform, so that nothing beneath
can pass him by. Fool that you are, in treating with scorn so clear
an indication of the divine majesty and of God's instruction of
mankind. God asks a question, as though in doubt, because here
too it was his purpose to prove that man has freedom of choice,
and in a case which admitted of either denial or admission to give
him the opportunity of willingly confessing his sin, and on that
account making it less grievous. So also he demands of Cain
where his brother is, as though he had not already heard the

25. 1 Theophilus, ad Autol. ii. 26, says that God asked this question, not because
he did not know, but to give Adam an opportunity for repentance.


II. 26 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 157

voice of Abel's blood crying out from the ground: but it was also
that Cain, by that same power of choice, should have power by
his own act to deny the sin and on that account aggravate it.
Thus his intention was that examples should be set before us that
it is better to confess sins than to deny them, and that even at that
early date a beginning should be made of that gospel teaching,
Out of thine own mouth shall thou be justified, and out of thine own
mouth shall thou be condemned.b
For although Adam, by the law as
it stood, was delivered to death, yet his hope was saved: for the
Lord said, Behold Adam is become as one of us,c referring no doubt
to the future promotion of man to divinity. In fact, what is it that
follows? And now, lest perchance he stretch forth his hand and take of the
tree of life and live for ever.c
When he inserts 'and now', which is
a word in the present tense, he indicates that he has given a tem-
poral and temporary extension of life: and that is why he put no
curse upon Adam and Eve in themselves, for they were candi-
dates for restoration, being raised to their feet by confession. But
Cain he did curse: and though he was desirous of washing out his
sin by dying, God for a time refused to let him die, because in
addition to what he had done he was further burdened by his
denial of it. This must be what our God's ignorance is: it will
have been a feigned ignorance, designed to prevent a guilty man
from remaining ignorant of what he ought to do about it.

Also when he comes down to Sodom and Gomorra the Lord
says, / will see if they are altogether doing according to the cry that reaches
up to me, and if not I will know.d
Here again, do you suppose it is
from ignorance that he is in doubt and desirous of knowing? Or
is there not here, when reading it aloud, the need for such an
intonation as will give expression to a comminatory, not a deliber-
ative, meaning under the pretence of seeking for information?
But if you scorn the idea of God coming down, as though he were
unable to carry out his act of judgement unless he were to come
down,—take care, or you will be attacking your own god, no
less: for he too came down, to accomplish what it was his will
to do.

26. Also, God swears with an oath. Is this oath perhaps by
Marcion's god? 'No,' your answer is, 'much more pointlessly, he
swears by himself.' What else could he have thought of doing,
when he was unaware of the existence of any other god, and in


II. 27 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 159

fact was then and there swearing that besides himself there is
no other god at all?" Do you then charge him with false or per-
haps pointless swearing? But he cannot be supposed to have
sworn falsely if, as you allege, he did not know there was another
god: for his swearing of what he knew of was not in a true sense
false swearing. Neither is his swearing that there is no other god
a pointless swearing: only so would it have been pointless swear-
ing if there had not been people who believed there were other
gods—in that age worshippers of idols, in our days also heretics.
So he swears by himself, so that you may believe God, at least
on his own oath, that there is no other god at all. And it is you,
Marcion, who have forced God to do this: for even so long ago
God had foreknowledge of you. Consequently if in his promises,
and in his threatenings besides, God uses an oath in dragging forth
that faith which in its beginnings is hard to attain to, there is
nothing unworthy of God in that which causes men to believe
in God. On that other occasion also God made himself little
even in the midst of his fierce anger, when in his wrath against
the people because of the consecration of the (golden) calf he
demanded of his servant Moses, Let me alone, and I will wax hot in
wrath and destroy them, and I will make thee into a great nation.b
On
this you are in the habit of insisting that Moses was a better
person than his own God—deprecating, yes and even forbidding,
his wrath: for he says, Thou shalt not do this: or else destroy me along
with them.c
Greatly to be pitied are you, as well as the Israelites,
for not realizing that in the person of Moses there is a prefiguring
of Christ, who intercedes with the Father, and offers his own
soul for the saving of the people. But for the present it is enough
that the people were granted even to Moses in his own person.
Also, so that the servant might be in a position to make this re-
quest of his Lord, the Lord made that request of himself. That is
why he said to his servant, Let me alone and I will destroy them,
so that the servant might forestall this by his prayer and his
offering of himself, and so that you by this might learn how much
is permitted to one who has faith, and is a prophet, in the presence
of God.

27. Now at length—that I may dispose of the rest of these ques-
tions in one single answer—for all those details which you class
together as petty and weak and unworthy, with intent to drag


II. 27 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 161

the Creator down, I shall set before you a straightforward and
definite reason: it is that God would not have been able to enter
into converse with men except by taking to himself those human
thoughts and feelings by which he might reduce the force of his
majesty, which human mediocrity was utterly unable to bear,
by virtue of a humility, unworthy indeed of himself but necessary
for man, and consequently worthy even of God, since nothing is
so worthy of God as the salvation of man. Of this I might have
discoursed at greater length if I had been treating with heathens—
although even with heretics the method of attack is not very
different. But seeing that you yourselves have already stated your
belief that a god has dwelt in human shape and in all the rest of
what belongs to man's estate, you will assuredly not demand any
further persuasion that God has in fact made himself conformable
to human condition, but are confuted by virtue of your own creed.
For if a god—I mean that more lofty one—did with such great
humility so lay low the high estate of his majesty as to make it sub-
ject to death, even the death of a cross, why should you not agree
that to our God also some few pettinesses were not inappropriate,
being in any case less intolerable than the revilings, the scaffolds,
and the sepulchres of the Jews? Or is it not these same pettinesses
which ought, without further discussion, to make it clear to you
that the Christ who was made the sport of men's passions belongs
to that same God whose human appearances and activities are
the object of your reproaches? For we claim also that Christ has
always acted in God the Father's name, has himself ever since
the beginning associated with, and conversed with, patriarchs and
prophets.1 He is the Son of the Creator, his Word whom by
bringing him forth from himself he caused to be his Son. From
then onwards he put him in authority over his whole design and
purpose, reducing him a little below the angels,a as it is written
in David. By this reduction he was brought by the Father to these
(acts and experiences) which you disapprove of as human: for
he was learning even from the beginning,2 by so early assuming
manhood, to be that which he was going to be at the end. He it

27. 1 It was almost universally held, until the end of the fourth century, that
the subject of the theophanies, the speaker of divine words throughout the
Old Testament, was God the Son acting as the agent or messenger of the Father:
Justin, dial. 56 sqq.; Tertullian, adv. Prax. 14-16; Eusebius, H.E. i. 2; Pruden-
tius, Apotheosis (passim).

2 On ediscens cf. III. 9. 6; de carne Christi 6; adv. Prax. 16.

8268033 M


II. 27 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 163

is who comes down (to inquire into Sodom), who asks questions
(of Adam and of Gain), who makes request (of Moses), and swears
with an oath. That the Father has become visible to no man is
the testimony of that gospel which you share with us, in which
Christ says, No one knoweth the Father save the Son.b It was he also
who in the Old Testament had already declared, No man shall see
God and live,c
thus pronouncing that the Father cannot be seen,
while with the Father's authority and in his name he himself
was the God who was seen, the Son of God. So too among us God
is accepted in the person of Christ, because in this way also he
belongs to us. Therefore all the (attributes and activities) you
make requisition of as worthy of God are to be found in the
Father, inaccessible to sight and contact, peaceable also, and,
so to speak, a god philosophers can approve of: but all the things
you repudiate as unworthy, are to be accounted to the Son, who
was both seen and heard, and held converse, the Father's agent
and minister, who commingles in himself man and God, in the
miracles God, in the pettinesses man, so as to add as much to man
as he detracts from God. In fact the whole of that which in my
God is dishonourable in your sight, is a sign and token of man's
salvation. God entered into converse with man, so that man might
be taught how to act like God. God treated on equal terms with
man, so that man might be able to treat on equal terms with
God. God was found to be small, so that man might become very
great. As you despise a God of that sort I wonder if you do honestly
believe that God was crucified. How great then is your unreason-
ableness in the face of both one and the other of the Creator's
courses of action. You mark him down as a judge, yet the sternness
which is natural to a judge in accordance with the demands
of the cases before him you stigmatize as cruelty. You demand
a God supremely good, yet that gentleness which is the natural
outcome of his kindness, which has conversed at a lower level
in such proportion as human insignificance could comprehend,
you devalue as pettiness. He meets with your approval neither as
great nor as small, neither as judge nor as friend. But what if
these same characteristics are found to be in your god too? I
have already, in the book assigned to him,3 proved that he is
a judge, and as a judge necessarily stern, and as stern also cruel—
if cruelty is the proper word.

27. 3 i.e. I. 25 sqq.


II. 28 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 165

28. Now in the matter of pettinesses and malignities, and the
rest of those bad marks, I can myself put together a few rival
antitheses in opposition to Marcion. If my God was unaware that
there was another god above him, yours likewise did not know
that there was another beneath him: as it was put by Heraclitus
the obscure, It is the same road upwards as downwards.1 In
fact, if he had not been ignorant of him, he would have opposed
him from the start. Sin and death, and the actual author of sin,
the devil, and every evil thing which my God has allowed to exist,
yours also has allowed, by allowing him to allow them. Our God
has altered his decisions—exactly as yours has: for your god, who
has at so late a date had regard for the human race, has altered
that decision by which for all those long ages he abstained from
regarding them. Our God, in the case of a certain person, re-
pented of the evil: and so did yours. For the fact that he did at
length have respect for man's salvation was an act of repentance
for his initial disregard—such repentance as is owed to an evil
deed. Moreover, neglect of man's salvation must be accounted
an evil deed, and in the case of your god this was rectified only
by repentance. Our God recommended theft—but of gold and
silver. But by how much a man is of greater value than gold and
silver, by so much is your god more of a thief, stealing man away
from his Owner and Maker. Our God demands an eye for an
eye: but your god, by prohibiting retaliation, makes it more
likely the injury will be repeated—for surely any man who is
not hit back will repeat his blow. Our God is unaware of the
character of the men he is promoting: and so is yours: he would
not have promoted Judas the traitor if he had known before-
hand (what he was to be). And as you affirm that in one place
the Creator told a lie, there is a much greater lie in your Christ,
for his body was not a true one. My God's cruelty has put an end
to many: your god in his turn consigns to destruction those whom
he omits to save. My God ordered a certain person to be put to
death: yours desired himself to be killed, a murderer as well of
himself as of the man by whom it was his will to be put to death.
I shall prove to Marcion that his god has put to death a great
many: for he made (Israel) a murderer, who consequently must
perish, unless it is the case that that people committed no sin

28. 1 Heraclitus, fragm. 60 (Diels) ap. Diog. Laert. ix. 9: of the mutations of
the four elements from fire to air, to water, to earth, and back again.


II. 29 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 167

against (Marcion's) Christ. But the power of truth is quick in
action, content with few words: falsehood will stand in need of
many.

29. Now if my plea that the Creator combines goodness with
judgement had called for a more elaborate demolition of Mar-
cion's Antitheses, I should have gone on to overthrow them one
by one, on the principle that the instances cited of both aspects
are, as I have already proved, jointly in keeping with (a sound
idea of) God. Both aspects, the goodness and the judgement,
combine to produce a complete and worthy conception of a
divinity to which nothing is impossible: and so I am for the time
being content to have rebutted in summary fashion those anti-
theses which, by criticism of the moral value of the Creator's works,
his laws, and his miracles, indicate anxiety to establish a division,
making Christ a stranger to the Creator—as it were the supremely
good a stranger to the judge, the kind to the cruel, the bringer of
salvation a stranger to the author of destruction. Instead of
dividing, those antitheses do rather combine into unity the two
whom they place in such oppositions as, when combined together,
give a complete conception of God. Take away Marcion's title,
take away the intention and purpose of his work, and this book
will provide neither more nor less than a description of one and
the same God, in his supreme goodness and in his judgement—
for these two conceptions are conjoined in God and in him alone.
In fact Marcion's very anxiety, by means of the instances cited,
to set Christ in opposition to the Creator, does rather envisage
their unity. For the one and only real and objective divinity
showed itself, in these very instances and these very deductions
from them, to be both kind and stern: for his purpose was to give
evidence of his kindness, particularly in those against whom he
had previously shown severity. The change which time brought
about is nothing to be wondered at: God subsequently became
more gentle, in proportion as things had become subdued, having
been at first more strict when they were unsubdued. So Marcion's
antitheses make it easier to explain how the Creator's mode of
action was by Christ rather refashioned than repudiated, re-
stored rather than rejected: especially so when you make your
good god exempt from every bitterness of feeling, and, in that
case, from hostility to the Creator. If that is the case how can the


II. 29 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 169

antitheses prove he has been in opposition to one or another aspect
of the Creator's character? To sum up: I shall by means of these
antitheses recognize in Christ my own jealous God. He did in
the beginning by his own right, by a hostility which was rational
and therefore good, provide beforehand for the maturity and
fuller ripeness of the things which were his. His antitheses are in
conformity with his own world: for it is composed and regulated
by elements contrary to each other, yet in perfect proportion.
Therefore, most thoughtless Marcion, you ought rather to have
shown that there is one god of light and another of darkness: after
that you would have found it easier to persuade us that there is
one god of kindness and another of severity. In any case, the
antithesis, or opposition, will belong to that God in whose world
it is to be found.


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Ernest Evans(ed), Tertullian: Adversus Marcionem. © Oxford University Press. 1972.  Reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press.

Edited and translated by Canon Ernest Evans, 1972
Transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2001

Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press
SPIonic font, free from here.


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