Tertullian Adversus Marcionem, Books I-V. Edited and trans. by Ernest
(Oxford Early Christian Texts). 2 vols. Pp. xxiv +658. Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1972. £8 the set.
perhaps the most serious challenge to Catholic Christianity
from within during the five centuries of its existence. For an understanding of
it Tertullian's Adversus Marcionem is the most important witness. The very
ness and thoroughness of Tertullian's work against Marcion is important evi-
dence of the liveliness and seriousness of the challenge Marcion presented.
Marcion proclaimed a God previously unknown, different from the just and
vengeful God of the Old Testament, a God made human in Christ, good,
redeeming man from the world created by the God of the Old Testament.
His opposition to the God of the Old Testament involved him in docetism,
which may have been for him also a corollary of the spirituality of
in contrast to the materialism (involving even millenarianism) of orthodox
Christianity. So Marcionism is no antiquarian heresy, but a perennial tendency
in Christianity. A great deal of its emphasis can be incorporated by notions of
progressive revelation: and as only selected portions of the psalms are recited
in the Church's office, its presuppositions are lodged in the Church's worship.
rejection of Marcionism is fundamental: and some of his argu-
ments cut at the roots of contemporary modified Marcionism. The unity of
creation and redemption, the coherence of justice and mercy, the place of the
body in the totality of redemption: these are the themes that Tertullian sounds.
'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' (ii. i 7). The first three books deal with the basic
of Marcionism. Books iv and v examine Marcion's gospel and epistles (details
of which--rather compressed--are given in Appendix II). These bear reading
just for themselves as practical evidence of Tertullian's handling of the unity
of the two testaments (though Tertullian is often very slipshod--frequently
only half-remembering or mis-remembering the texts he quotes). Thus he
commiserates with Marcion at the end of Book iv: 'Misereor tui, Marcion,
frustra laborasti. Christus enim Iesus in evangelio tuo meus est'.
Dr. Evans has given
us a splendid edition of this treatise. No less ingenious
than his predecessors, he is usually wiser. The translation is lucid and fluent,
even if occasionally he translates not the text he prints, but what he suggests
in the apparatus. There are very few misprints. Notes are learned and relevant;
there is a brief introduction (in the doctrinal section there is nothing new;
indeed, much of it is verbally identical with his introduction to De carne
There is a bibliography: Bauer's Orthodoxy and heresy in Earliest
Jonas's Gnostic Religion, and T. D. Barnes's Tertullian might well have been
All students of
Tertullian are greatly indebted to Dr. Evans: for this is
but the latest of a long series of excellent editions of Tertullian's treatises.
would be a fitting tribute to his scholarship if his first such
edition, that of
Adversus Praxean, now long out of print, could be republished either in
series of Oxford Early Christian Texts or by the original publishers (S.P.C.K.).