|shoeleg:: Against Hermogenes and On the Flesh of Christ||[Changes] [Calendar] [Search] [Index]|
CHAP. XVIII.--AN EULOGY ON THE WISDOM AND WORD OF GOD, BY WHICH GOD MADE ALL THINGS OF NOTHING.
If any material was necessary to God in the creation of the world, as Hermogenes supposed, God had a far nobler and more suitable one in His own wisdom(4)--one which was not to be gauged by the writings of(5) philosophers, but to be learnt from the words or prophets. This alone, indeed, knew the mind of the Lord. For "who knoweth the things of God, and the things in God, but the Spirit, which is in Him?"(6) Now His wisdom is that Spirit. This was His counsellor, the very way of His wisdom and knowledge.(7) Of this He made all things, making them through It, and making them with It. "When He prepared the heavens," so says (the Scripture(8)), "I was present with Him; and when He strengthened above the winds the lofty clouds, and when He secured the fountains(9) which are under the heaven, I was present, compacting these things(10) along with Him. I was He(11) in whom He took delight; moreover, I daily rejoiced in His presence: for He rejoiced when He had finished the world, and amongst the sons of men did He show forth His pleasure."(12) Now, who would not rather approve of(13) this as the fountain and origin of all things--of this as, in very deed, the Matter of all Matter, not liable to any end,(14) not diverse in condition, not restless in motion, not ungraceful in form, but natural, and proper, and duly proportioned, and beautiful, such truly as even God might well have required, who requires His own and not another's? Indeed, as soon as He perceived It to be necessary for His creation of the world, He immediately creates It, and generates It in Himself. "The Lord," says the Scripture, "possessed(15) me, the beginning of His ways for the creation of His works. Before the worlds He rounded me; before He made the earth, before the mountains were settled in their places; moreover, before the hills He generated me, and prior to the depths was I begotten."(16) Let Hermogenes then confess that the very Wisdom of God is declared to be born and created, for the especial reason that we should not suppose that there is any other being than God alone who is unbegotten and uncreated. For if that, which from its being inherent in the Lord(17) was of Him and in Him, was yet not without a beginning,--I mean(18) His wisdom, which was then born and created, when in the thought of God It began to assume motion(19) for the arrangement of His creative works,--how much more impossible(20) is it that anything should have been without a beginning which was extrinsic to the Lord!(21) But if this same Wisdom is the Word of God, in the capacity(22) of Wisdom, and (as being He) without whom nothing was made, just as also (nothing) was set in order without Wisdom, how can it be that anything, except the Father, should be older, and on this account indeed nobler, than the Son of God, the only-begotten and first-begotten Word? Not to say that(23) what is unbegotten is stronger than that which is born, and what is not made more powerful than that which is made. Because that which did not require a Maker to give it existence, will be much more elevated in rank than that which had an author to bring it into being. On this principle, then,(24) if evil is indeed unbegotten, whilst the Son of God is begotten ("for," says God, "my heart hath emitted my most excellent Word"(25)), I am not quite sure that evil may not be introduced by good, the stronger by the weak, in the same way as the unbegotten is by the begotten. Therefore on this ground Hermogenes puts Matter even before God, by putting it before the Son. Because the Son is the Word, and "the Word is God,"(1) and "I and my Father are one."(2) But after all, perhaps,(3) the Son will patiently enough submit to having that preferred before Him which (by Hermogenes), is made equal to the Father !
On the Flesh of Christ
CHAP. III.--CHRIST'S NATIVITY BOTH POSSIBLE AND BECOMING. THE HERETICAL OPINION OF CHRIST'S APPARENT FLESH DECEPTIVE AND DISHONOURABLE TO GOD, EVEN ON MARCION'S PRINCIPLES.
Since(24) you think that this lay within the competency of your own arbitrary choice, you must needs have supposed that being born(25) was either impossible for God, or unbecoming to Him. With God, however, nothing is impossible but what He does not will. Let us consider, then, whether He willed to be born (for if He had the will, He also had the power, and was born). I put the argument very briefly. If God had willed not to be born, it matters not why, He would not have presented Himself in the likeness of man. Now who, when he sees a man, would deny that he had been born? What God therefore willed not to be, He would in no wise have willed the seeming to be. When a thing is distasteful, the very notion(26) of it is scouted; because it makes no difference whether a thing exist or do not exist, if, when it does not exist, it is yet assumed to exist. It is of course of the greatest importance that there should be nothing false (or pretended) attributed to that which really does not exist.(1) But, say you, His own consciousness (of the truth of His nature) was enough for Him. If any supposed that He had been born, because they saw Him as a man, that was their concern.(2) Yet with how much more dignity and consistency would He have sustained the human character on the supposition that He was truly born; for if He were not born, He could not have undertaken the said character without injury to that consciousness of His which you on your side attribute to His confidence of being able to sustain, although not born, the character of having been born even against! His own consciousness!(3) Why, I want to know,(4) was it of so much importance, that Christ should, when perfectly aware what He really was, exhibit Himself as being that which He was not? You cannot express any apprehension that,s if He had been born and truly clothed Himself with man's nature, He would have ceased to be God, losing what He was, while becoming what He was not. For God is in no danger of losing His own state and condition. But, say you, I deny that God was truly changed to man in such wise as to be born and endued with a body of flesh, on this ground, that a being who is without end is also of necessity incapable of change. For being changed into something else puts an end to the former state. Change, therefore, is not possible to a Being who cannot come to an end. Without doubt, the nature of things which are subject to change is regulated by this law, that they have no permanence in the state which is undergoing change in them, and that they come to an end from thus wanting permanence, whilst they lose that in the process of change which they previously were. But nothing is equal with God; His nature is different(6) from the condition of all things. If, then, the things which differ from God, and from which God differs, lose what existence they had whilst they are undergoing change, wherein will consist the difference of the Divine Being from all other things except in His possessing the contrary faculty of theirs,--in other words, that God can be changed into all conditions, and yet continue just as He is? On any other supposition, He would be on the, same level with those things which, when changed, lose the existence they had before; whose equal, of course, He is not in any other respect, as He certainly is not in the changeful issues(7) of their nature. You have sometimes read and believed that the Creator's angels have been changed into human form, and have even borne about so veritable a body, that Abraham even washed their feet,(8) and Lot was rescued from the Sodomites by their hands;(9) an angel, moreover, wrestled with a man so strenuously with his body, that the latter desired to be let loose, so tightly was he held.(10) Has it, then, been permitted to angels, which are inferior to God, after they have been changed into human bodily form,(11) nevertheless to remain angels? and will you deprive God, their superior, of this faculty, as if Christ could not continue to be God, after His real assumption of the nature of man? Or else, did those angels appear as phantoms of flesh? You will not, however, have the courage to say this; for if it be so held in your belief, that the Creator's angels are in the same condition as Christ, then Christ will belong to the same God as those angels do, who are like Christ in their condition. If you had not purposely rejected in some instances, and corrupter in others, the Scriptures which are opposed to your opinion, you would have been confuted in this matter by the Gospel of John, when it declares that the Spirit descended in the body(12) of a dove, and sat upon the Lord.(13) When the said Spirit was in this condition, He was as truly a dove as He was also a spirit; nor did He destroy His own proper substance by the assumption of an extraneous substance. But you ask what becomes of the dove's body, after the return of the Spirit back to heaven, and similarly in the case of the angels. Their withdrawal was effected in the same manner as their appearance had been. If you had seen how their production out of nothing had been effected, you would have known also the process of their return to nothing. If the initial step was out of sight, so was also the final one. Still there was solidity in their bodily substance, whatever may have been the force by which the body became visible.What is written cannot but have been.
CHAP. IV.--GOD'S HONOUR IN THE INCARNATION OF HIS SON VINDICATED. MARCION'S DISPARAGEMENT OF HUMAN FLESH INCONSISTENT AS WELL AS IMPIOUS. CHRIST HAS CLEANSED THE FLESH.THE FOOLISHNESS OF GOD IS MOST WISE.
Since, therefore, you do not reject the assumption of a body' as impossible or as hazardous to the character of God, it remains for you to repudiate and censure it as unworthy of Him. Come now, beginning from the nativity itself, declaim(2) against the uncleanness of the generative elements within the womb, the filthy concretion of fluid and blood, of the growth of the flesh for nine: months long out of that very mire. Describe the womb as it enlarges(3) from day to day,heavy, troublesome, restless even in sleep, changeful in its feelings of dislike and desire. Inveigh now likewise against the shame itself of a woman in travail(4) which, however, ought rather to be honoured in consideration of that peril, or to be held sacred(5) in respect of (the mystery of) nature. Of course you are horrified also at the infant, which is shed into life with the embarrassments which accompany it from the womb;(6) you likewise, of course, loathe it even after it is washed, when it is dressed out in its swaddling-clothes, graced with repeated anointing,(7) smiled on with nurse's fawns. This reverend course of nature,(8) you, O Marcion, (are pleased to) spit upon; and yet, in what way were you born? You detest a human being at his birth; then after what fashion do you love anybody? Yourself, of course, you had no love of, when you departed from the Church and the faith of Christ. But never mind? if you are not on good terms with yourself, or even if you were born in a way different from other people. Christ, at any rate, has loved even that man who was condensed in his mother's womb amidst all its uncleannesses, even that man who was brought into life out of the said womb, even that man who was nursed amidst the nurse's simpers.(10) For his sake He came down (from heaven), for his sake He preached, for his sake "He humbled Himself even unto death--the death of the cross."(11) He loved, of course, the being whom He redeemed at so great a cost. If Christ is the Creator's Son, it was with justice that He loved His own (creature); if He comes from another god, His love was excessive, since He redeemed a being who belonged to another. Well, then, loving man He loved his nativity also, and his flesh as well. Nothing can be loved apart from that through which whatever exists has its existence. Either take away nativity, and then show us your man; or else withdraw the flesh, and then present to our view the being whom God has redeemed--since it is these very conditions(12) which constitute the man whom God has redeemed. And are you for turning these conditions into occasions of blushing to the very creature whom He has redeemed, (censuring them), too, us unworthy of Him who certainly would not have redeemed them had He not loved them? Our birth He reforms from death by a second birth from heaven;(13) our flesh He restores from every harassing malady; when leprous, He cleanses it of the stain; when blind, He rekindles its light; when palsied, He renews its strength; when possessed with devils, He exorcises it; when dead, He reanimates it,--then shall we blush to own it? If, to be sure,(14) He had chosen to be born of a mere animal, and were to preach the kingdom of heaven invested with the body of a beast either wild or tame, your censure (I imagine) would have instantly met Him with this demurrer: "This is disgraceful for God, and 'this is unworthy of the Son of God, and simply foolish." For no other reason than because one thus judges. It is of course foolish, if we are to judge God by our own conceptions. But, Marcion, consider well this Scripture, if indeed you have not erased it: "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise."(15) Now what are those foolish things? Are they the conversion of men to the worship of the true God, the rejection of error, the whole training in righteousness, chastity, mercy, patience, and innocence? These things certainly are not "foolish." Inquire again, then, of what things he spoke, and when you imagine that you have discovered what they are will you find anything to be so "foolish" as believing in a God that has been born, and that of a virgin, and of a fleshly nature too, who wallowed in all the before-mentioned humiliations of nature? But some one may say, "These are not the foolish things; they must be other things which God has chosen to confound the wisdom of the world." And yet, according to the world's wisdom, it is more easy to believe that Jupiter became a bull or a swan, if we listen to Marcion, than that Christ really became a man.
CHAP. V.--CHRIST TRULY LIVED AND DIED IN HUMAN FLESH. INCIDENTS OF HIS HUMAN LIFE ON EARTH, AND REFUTATION OF MARCION'S DOCETIC PARODY OF THE SAME.
There are, to be sure, other things also quite as foolish (as the birth of Christ), which have reference to the humiliations and sufferings of God. Or else, let them call a crucified God "wisdom." But Marcion will apply the knife' to this doctrine also,, and even with greater reason. For which Is more unworthy of God, which is more likely to raise a blush of shame, that God should be born, or that He should die? that He should bear the flesh, or the cross? be circumcised, or be crucified? be cradled, or be coffined?(2) be laid in a manger, or in a tomb? Talk of "wisdom!" You will show more of fiat if you refuse to believe this also. But, after all, you will not be "wise" unless you become a "fool" to the world, by believing" the foolish things of God." Have you, then, cut away(3) all sufferings from Christ, on the ground that, as a mere phantom, He was incapable of experiencing them? We have said above that He might possibly have undergone the unreal mockeries(4) of an imaginary birth and infancy. But answer me at once, you that murder truth: Was not God really crucified? And, having been really crucified, did He not really die? And, having indeed really died, did He not really rise again? Falsely did Paul(5) "determine to know nothing amongst us but Jesus and Him crucified;''(6) falsely has he impressed upon us that He was buried; falsely inculcated that He rose again. False, therefore, is our faith also. And all that we hope for from Christ will be a phantom. O thou most infamous of men, who acquittest of all guilt(7) the murderers of God! For nothing did Christ suffer from them, if He really suffered nothing at all. Spare the whole world's one only hope, thou who art destroying the indispensable dishonour of our faith? Whatsoever is unworthy of God, is of gain to me. I am safe, if I am not ashamed--my Lord. "Whosoever," says He, "shall be ashamed of me, of him will I also be ashamed."(9) Other matters for shame find I r none which can prove me to be shameless t in a good sense, and foolish in a happy one, by my own contempt of shame. The Son of God was crucified; I am not ashamed because men must needs be ashamed of it. And the Son of God died; it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd.(10) And He was buried, and rose again; the fact is certain, because it is impossible. But how will all this be true in Him, if He was not Himself true--if He really had not in Himself that which might be crucified, might die, might be buried, and might rise again? I mean this flesh suffused with blood, built up with bones, interwoven with nerves, entwined with veins, a flesh which knew how to be born, and how to die, human without doubt, as born of a human being. It will therefore be mortal in Christ, because Christ is man and the Son of man. Else why is Christ man and the Son of man, if he has nothing of man, and nothing from man? Unless it be either that man is anything else than flesh, or man's flesh comes from any other source than man, or Mary is anything else than a human being, or Marcion's man is as Marcion's god.(11) Otherwise Christ could not be described as being man without flesh, nor the Son of man without any human parent; just as He is not God without the Spirit of God, nor the Son of God without having God for His father. Thus the nature(12) of the two substances displayed Him as man and God,--in one respect born, in the other unborn; l in one respect fleshly in the other spiritual; in one sense weak in the other exceeding strong; in on sense dying, in the other living. This property of the two states--the divine and the human--is distinctly asserted(13) with equal truth of both natures alike, with the same belief both in respect of the Spirit '* and of the flesh. The powers of the Spirit,(14) proved Him to be God, His sufferings attested the flesh of man. If His powers were not without the Spirit(14) in like manner, were not His sufferings without the flesh. if His flesh with .its sufferings was fictitious, for the same reason was the Spirit false with all its powers. Wherefore halve(15) Christ with a lie? He was wholly the truth. Believe me, He chose rather to be born, than in any part to pretend--and that indeed to His own detriment--that He was bearing about a flesh hardened without bones, solid without muscles, bloody without blood, clothed without the tunic of skin,(1) hungry without appetite, eating without teeth, speaking without a tongue, so that His word was a phantom to the ears through an imaginary voice. A phantom, too, it was of course after the resurrection, when, showing His hands and His feet for the disciples to examine, He said, "Behold and see that it is I myself, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have;"(2) without doubt, hands, and feet, and bones are not what a spirit possesses, but only the flesh. How do you interpret this statement, Marcion, you who tell us that Jesus comes only from the most excellent God, who is both simple and good? See how He rather cheats, and deceives, and juggles the eyes of all, and the senses of all, as well as their access to and contact with Him! You ought rather to have brought Christ down, not from heaven, but from some troop of mountebanks, not as God besides man, but simply as a man, a magician; not as the High Priest of our salvation, but as the conjurer in a show; not as the raiser of the dead, but as the misleader(3) of the living,--except that, if He were a magician, He must have had a nativity!
CHAP. VI.--THE DOCTRINE OF APELLES REFUTED, THAT CHRIST'S BODY WAS OF SIDEREAL SUBSTANCE, NOT BORN. NATIVITY AND MORTALITY ARE CORRELATIVE CIRCUMSTANCES, AND IN CHRIST'S CASE HIS DEATH PROVES HIS BIRTH.
But certain disciples 4 of the heretic of Pontus, compelled to be wiser than their teacher, concede to Christ real flesh, without effect, however, on(5) their denial of His nativity. He might have had, they say, a flesh which was not at all born. So we have found our way "out of a frying-pan," as the proverb runs, "into the fire,"(6)--from Marcion to Apelles. This man having first fallen from the principles of Marcion into (intercourse with) a woman, in the flesh, and afterwards shipwrecked himself, in the spirit, on the virgin Philumene,(7) proceeded from that time(8) to preach that the body of Christ was of solid flesh, but without having been born. To this angel, indeed, of Philumene, the apostle will reply in tones like those in which he even then predicted him, saying, "Although an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed."(9) To the arguments, however, which have been indicated just above, we have now to show our resistance. They allow that Christ really had a body. Whence was the material of it, if not from the same sort of thing as(10) that in which He appeared? Whence came His body, if His body were not flesh? Whence came His flesh, if it were not born? Inasmuch as that which is born must undergo this nativity in order to become flesh. He borrowed, they say, His flesh from the stars, and from the substances of the higher world. And they assert it for a certain principle, that a body without nativity is nothing to be astonished at, because it has been submitted to angels to appear even amongst ourselves in the flesh without the intervention of the womb. We admit, of course, that such facts have been related. But then, how comes it to pass that a faith which holds to a different rule borrows materials for its own arguments from the faith which it impugns? What has it to do with Moses, who has rejected the God of Moses? Since the God is a different one, everything belonging to him must be different also. But let the heretics always use the Scriptures of that God whose world they also enjoy. The fact will certainly recoil on them as a witness to judge them, that they maintain their own blasphemies from examples derived from Him.(11) But it is an easy task for the truth to prevail without raising any such demurrer against them. When, therefore, they set forth the flesh of Christ after the pattern of the angels, declaring it to be not born, and yet flesh for all that, I should wish them to compare the causes, both in Christ's case and that of the angels, wherefore they came in the flesh. Never did any angel descend for the purpose of being crucified, of tasting death, and of rising again from the dead. Now, since there never was such a reason for angels becoming embodied, you have the cause why they assumed flesh without undergoing birth. They had not come to die, therefore they also (came not) to be born. Christ, however, having been sent to die, had necessarily to be also born, that He might be capable of death; for nothing is in the habit of dying but that which is born. Between nativity and mortality there is a mutual contrast. The law(1) which makes us die is the cause of our being born. Now, since Christ died owing to the condition which undergoes death, but that undergoes death which is also born, the consequence was--nay,it was an antecedent necessity-that He must have been born also,(2) by reason of the condition which undergoes birth; because He had to die in obedience to that very condition which, because it begins with birth, ends in death.(3) It was not fitting for Him not to be born under the pretence (4) that it was fitting for Him to die. But the Lord Himself at that very time appeared to Abraham amongst those angels without being born, and yet in the flesh without doubt, in virtue of the before-mentioned diversity of cause. You, however, cannot admit this, since you do not receive that Christ, who was even then rehearsing(5) how to converse with, and liberate, and judge the human race, in the habit of a flesh which as yet was not born, because it did not yet mean to die until both its nativity and mortality were previously (by prophecy) announced. Let them, then, prove to us that those angels derived their flesh from the stars. If they do not prove it because it is not written, neither will the flesh of Christ get its origin therefrom, for which they borrowed the precedent of the angels. It is plain that the angels bore a flesh which was not naturally their own; their nature being of a spiritual substance, although in some sense peculiar to themselves, corporeal; and yet they could be transfigured into human shape, and for the time be able to appear and have intercourse with men. Since, therefore, it has not been told us whence they obtained their flesh, it remains for us not to doubt in our minds that a property of angelic power is this, to assume to themselves bodily Shape out of no material substance. How much more, you say, is it (within their competence to take a body) out of some material substance? That is true enough. But there is no evidence of this, because Scripture says nothing. Then, again,(6) how should they who are able to form themselves into that which by nature they are not, be unable to do this out of no material substance? If they become that which they are not, why cannot they so become out of that which is not? But that which has not existence when it comes into existence, is made out of nothing. This is why it is unnecessary either to inquire or to demonstrate what has subsequently become of their (7) bodies. What came out of nothing, came to nothing. They, who were able to convert themselves into flesh have it in their power to convert nothing itself into flesh. It is a greater thing to change a nature than to make matter. But even if it were necessary to suppose that angels derived their flesh from some material substance, it is surely more credible that it was from some earthly matter than from any kind of celestial substances, since it was composed of so palpably terrene a quality that it fed on earthly ailments. Suppose that even now a celestial flesh (8) had fed on earthly aliments, although it was not itself earthly, in the same way that earthly flesh actually fed on celestial aliments, although it had nothing of the celestial nature (for we read of manna having been food for the people: "Man," says the Psalmist, "did eat angels' bread,"(9)) yet this does not once infringe the separate condition of the Lord's flesh, because of His different destination. For One who was to be truly a man, even unto death, it was necessary that He should be clothed with that flesh to which death belongs. Now that flesh to which death belongs is preceded by birth.
CHAP. XIV.--CHRIST TOOK NOT ON HIM AN ANGELIC NATURE, BUT THE HUMAN. IT WAS MEN, NOT ANGELS, WHOM HE CAME TO SAVE.
But Christ, they say, bare(16) (the nature of) an angel. For what reason? The same which induced Him to become man? Christ, then, was actuated by the motive which led Him to take human nature. Man's salvation was the motive, the restoration of that which had perished. Man had perished; his recovery had become necessary. No such cause, however, existed for Christ's taking on Him the nature of angels. For although there is assigned to angels also perdition in "the fire prepared for the devil and his angels,"(17) yet a restoration is never promised to them. No charge about the salvation of angels did Christ ever receive from the Father; and that which the Father neither promised nor commanded, Christ could not have undertaken. For what object, therefore, did He bear the angelic nature, if it were not (that He might have it) as a powerful helper(18) wherewithal to execute the salvation of man? The Son of God, in sooth, was not competent alone to deliver man, whom a solitary and single serpent had overthrown! There is, then, no longer but one God, but one Saviour, if there be two to contrive salvation, and one of them in need of the other. But was it His object indeed to deliver man by an angel? Why, then, come down to do that which He was about to expedite with an angel's help? If by an angel's aid, why come Himself also? If He meant to do all by Himself, why have an angel too? He has been, it is true, called "the Angel of great counsel," that is, a messenger, by a term expressive of official function, not of nature. For He had to announce to the world the mighty purpose of the Father, even that which ordained the restoration of man. But He is not on this account to be regarded as an angel, as a Gabriel or a Michael. For the Lord of the Vineyard sends even His Son to the labourers require fruit, as well as His servants. Yet the Son will not therefore be counted as one of the servants because He undertook the office of a servant. I may, then, more easily say, if such an expression is to be hazarded,(1) that the Son is actually an angel, that is, a messenger, from the Father, than that there is an angel in the Son. Forasmuch, however, as it has been declared concerning the Son Himself, Thou hast made Him a little lower than the angels"(2) how will it appear that He put on the nature of angels if He was made lower than the angels, having become man, with flesh and soul as the Son of man? As "the Spirit(3) of God." however, and "the Power of the Highest," can He be regarded as lower than the angels,--He who is verily God, and the Son of God? Well, but as bearing human nature, He is so far made inferior to the angels; but as bearing angelic nature, He to the same degree loses that inferiority. This opinion will be very suitable for Ebion,(5) who holds Jesus to be a mere man, and nothing more than a descendant of David, and not also the Son of God; although He is, to be sure,(6) in one respect more glorious than the prophets, inasmuch as he declares that there was an angel in Him, just as there was in Zechariah. Only it was never said by Christ, "And the angel, which spake within me, said unto me."(7) Neither, indeed, was ever used by Christ that familiar phrase of all the prophets, "Thus saith the Lord." For He was Himself the Lord, who openly spake by His own authority, prefacing His words with the formula, "Verily, verily, I say unto you." What need is there of further argument? Hear what Isaiah says in emphatic words, "It was no angel, nor deputy, but the Lord Himself who saved them."(8)
CHAP. XVI.--CHRIST'S FLESH IN NATURE, THE SAME AS OURS, ONLY SINLESS. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CARNEM PECCATI AND PECCATUM CARNIS: IT IS THE LATTER WHICH CHRIST ABOLISHED. THE FLESH OF THE FIRST ADAM, NO LESS THAN THAT OF THE SECOND ADAM, NOT RECEIVED FROM HUMAN SEED, ALTHOUGH AS ENTIRELY HUMAN AS OUR OWN, WHICH IS DERIVED FROM IT.
The famous Alexander,(8) too, instigated by his love of disputation in the true fashion of heretical temper, has made himself conspicuous against us; he will have us say that Christ put on flesh of an earthly origin,(9) in order that He might in His own person abolish sinful flesh.(10) Now, even if we did assert this as our opinion, we should be able to defend it in such a way as completely to avoid the extravagant folly which he ascribes to us in making us suppose that the very flesh of Christ was in Himself abolished as being sinful; because we mention our belief (in public),(11) that it is sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven; and we further declare that it will come again from thence in all the pomp(12) of the Father's glory: it is therefore just as impossible for us to say that it is abolished, as it is for us to maintain that it is sinful, and so made void, since in it there has been no fault. We maintain, moreover, that what has been abolished in Christ is not carnem peccati, "sinful flesh," but peccatum carnis, "sin in the flesh,"--not the material thing, but its condition;(13) not the substance, but its flaw;(14) and (this we aver) on the authority of the apostle, who says, "He abolished sin in the flesh."(15) Now in another sentence he says that Christ was "in the likeness of sinful flesh,"(16)not, however, as if He had taken on Him "the likeness of the flesh," in the sense of a semblance of body instead of its reality; but he means us to understand likeness to the flesh which sinned,(17) because the flesh of Christ, which committed no sin itself, resembled that which had sinned,--resembled it in its nature, but not in the corruption it received from Adam; whence we also affirm that there was in Christ the same flesh as that whose nature in man is sinful. In the flesh, therefore, we say that sin has been abolished, because in Christ that same flesh is maintained without sin, which in than was not maintained without sin. Now, it would not contribute to the purpose of Christ's abolishing sin in the flesh, if He did not abolish it in that flesh in which was the nature of sin, nor (would it conduce) to His glory. For surely it would have been no strange thing if He had removed the stain of sin in some better flesh, and one which should possess a different, even a sinless, nature! Then, you say, if He took our flesh, Christ's was a sinful one. Do not, however, fetter with mystery a sense which is quite intelligible. For in putting on our flesh, He made it His own; in making it His own, He made it sinless. A word of caution, however, must be addressed to all who refuse to believe that our flesh was in Christ on the ground that it came not of the seed of a human father,(1) let them remember that Adam himself received this flesh of ours without the seed of a human father. As earth was converted into this flesh of ours without the seed of a human father, so also was it quite possible for the Son of God to take to Himself' the substance of the selfsame flesh, without a human father's agency.(3)
CHAP, XVII.--THE SIMILARITY OF CIRCUMSTANCES BETWEEN THE FIRST AND THE SECOND ADAM, AS TO THE DERIVATION OF THEIR FLESH. AN ANALOGY ALSO PLEASANTLY TRACED BETWEEN EVE AND THE VIRGIN MARY.
But, leaving Alexander with his syllogisms, which he so perversely applies in his discussions, as well as with the hymns of Valentinus, which, with consummate assurance, he interpolates as the production of some respectable(4) author, let us confine our inquiry to a single point--Whether Christ received flesh from the virgin?--that we may thus arrive at a certain proof that His flesh was human, if He derived its substance from His mother's womb, although we are at once furnished with clear evidences of the human character of His flesh, from its name and description as that of a man, and from the nature of its constitution, and from the system of its sensations, and from its suffering of death. Now, it will first by necessary to show what previous reason there was for the Son of God's being born of a virgin. He who was going to consecrate a new order of birth, must Himself be born after a novel fashion, concerning which Isaiah foretold how that the Lord Himself would give the sign. What, then, is the sign? "Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son."(5) Accordingly, a virgin did conceive and bear "Emmanuel, God with us."(6) This is the new nativity; a man is born in God. And in this man God was born, taking the flesh of an ancient race, without the help, however, of the ancient seed, in order that He might reform it with a new seed, that is, in a spiritual manner, and cleanse it by the re-moral of all its ancient stains. But the whole of this new birth was prefigured, as was the case in all other instances, in ancient type, the Lord being born as man by a dispensation in which a virgin was the medium. The earth was still in a virgin state, reduced as yet by no human labour, with no seed as yet cast into its furrows, when, as we are told, God made man out of it into a living soul.(7) As, then, the first Adam is thus introduced to us, it is a just inference that the second Adam likewise, as the apostle has told us, was formed by God into a quickening spirit out of the ground,--in other words, out of a flesh which was unstained as yet by any human generation. But that I may lose no opportunity of supporting my argument from the name of Adam, why is Christ called Adam by the apostle, unless it be that, as man, He was of that earthly origin? And even reason here maintains the same conclusion, because it was by just the contrary(8) operation that God recovered His own image and likeness, of which He had been robbed by the devil. For it was while Eve was yet a virgin, that the ensnaring word had crept into her ear which was to build the edifice of death. Into a virgin's soul, in like manner, must be introduced that Word of God which was to raise the fabric of life; so that what had been reduced to ruin by this sex, might by the selfsame sex be recovered to salvation. As Eve had believed the serpent, so Mary believed the angel.(9) The delinquency which the one occasioned by believing, the other by believing effaced. But (it will be said) Eve did not at the devil's word conceive in her womb. Well, she at all events conceived; for the devil's word afterwards became as seed to her that she should conceive as an outcast, and bring forth in sorrow. Indeed she gave birth to a fratricidal devil; whilst Mary, on the contrary, bare one who was one day to secure salvation to Israel, His own brother after the flesh, and the murderer of Himself. God therefore sent down into the virgin's womb His Word, as the good Brother, who should blot out the memory of the evil brother. Hence it was necessary that Christ should come forth for the salvation of man, in that condition of flesh into which man had entered ever since his condemnation.
CHAP. XVIII.--THE MYSTERY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF OUR PERFECT HUMAN NATURE BY THE SECOND PERSON OF THE BLESSED TRINITY. HE IS HERE CALLED, AS OFTEN ELSEWHERE, THE SPIRIT.
Now, that we may give a simpler answer, it was not fit that the Son of God should be born of a human father's seed, lest, if He were wholly the Son of a man, He should fail to be also the Son of God, and have nothing more than "a Solomon" or "a Jonas,"'--as Ebion(2) thought we ought to believe concerning Him. In order, therefore, that He who was already the Son of God--of God the Father's seed, that is to say, the Spirit--might also be the Son of man, He only wanted to assume flesh, of the flesh of man(3) without the seed of a man;(4) for the seed of a man was unnecessary s for One who had the seed of God. As, then, before His birth of the virgin, He was able to have God for His Father without a human mother, so likewise, after He was born of the virgin, He was able to have a woman for His mother without a human father. He is thus man with God, in short, since He is man's flesh with God's Spirit(6)--flesh (I say) without seed from man, Spirit with seed from God. For as much, then, as the dispensation of God's purpose(7) concerning His Son required that He should be born(8) of a virgin, why should He not have received of the virgin the body which He bore from the virgin? Because, (forsooth) it is something else which He took from God, for "the Word "say they, "was made flesh."(9) Now this very statement plainly shows what it was that was made flesh; nor can it possibly be that(10) anything else than the Word was made flesh. Now, whether it was of the flesh that the Word was made flesh, or whether it was so made of the (divine) seed itself, the Scripture must tell us. As, however, the Scripture is silent about everything except what it was that was made (flesh), and says nothing of that from which it was so made, it must be held to suggest that from something else, and not from itself, was the Word made flesh. And if not from itself, but from something else, from what can we more suitably suppose that the Word became flesh than from that flesh in which it submitted to the dispensation?(11) And (we have a proof of the same conclusion in the fact) that the Lord Himself sententiously and distinctly pronounced, "that which is born of the flesh is flesh,"(12) even because it is born of the flesh. But if He here spoke of a human being simply, and not of Himself, (as you maintain) then you must deny absolutely that Christ is man, and must maintain that human nature was not suitable to Him. And then He adds, "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit,"(13) because God is a Spirit, and He was born of God. Now this description is certainly even more applicable to Him than it is to those who believe in Him. But if this passage indeed apply to Him, then why does not the preceding one also? For you cannot divide their relation, and adapt this to Him, and the previous clause to all other men, especially as you do not deny that Christ possesses the two substances, both of the flesh and of the Spirit. Besides, as He was in possession both of flesh and of Spirit, He cannot possibly, when speaking of the condition of the two substances which He Himself bears, be supposed to have determined that the Spirit indeed was His own, but that the flesh was not His own. Forasmuch, therefore, as He is of the Spirit He is God the Spirit, and is born of God; just as He is also born of the flesh of man, being generated in the flesh as man.(14)
CHAP. XXII.--HOLY SCRIPTURE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, EVEN IN ITS VERY FIRST VERSE, TESTIFIES TO CHRIST'S TRUE FLESH. IN VIRTUE OF WHICH HE IS INCORPORATED IN THE HUMAN STOCK OF DAVID, AND ABRAHAM, AND ADAM.
They may, then, obliterate the testimony of the devils which proclaimed Jesus the son of David; but whatever unworthiness there be in this testimony, that of the apostles they will never be able to efface, There is, first of all, Matthew, that most faithful chronicler(8) of the Gospel, because the companion of the Lord; for no other reason in the world than to show us clearly the fleshly original(9) of Christ, he thus begins his Gospel: "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham."(10) With a nature issuing from such fountal sources, and an order gradually descending to the birth of Christ, what else have we here described than the very flesh of Abraham and of David conveying itself down, step after step, to the very virgin, and at last introducing Christ,--nay, producing Christ Himself of the virgin? Then, again, there is Paul, who was at once both a disciple, and a master, and a witness of the selfsame Gospel; as an apostle of the same Christ, also, he affirms that Christ "was made of the seed of David, according to the flesh,"(11)--which, therefore, was His own likewise. Christ's flesh, then, is of David's seed. Since He is of the seed of David in consequence of Mary's flesh, He is therefore of Mary's flesh because of the seed of David. In what way so ever you torture the statement, He is either of the flesh of Mary because of the seed of David, or He is of the seed of David because of the flesh of Mary. The whole discussion is terminated by the same apostle, when he declares Christ to be "the seed of Abraham." And if of Abraham, how much more, to be sure, of David, as a more recent progenitor! For, unfolding the promised blessing upon all nations in the person(12) of Abraham, "And in thy seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed," he adds, "He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ."(13) When we read and believe these things, what sort of flesh ought we, and can we, acknowledge in Christ? Surely none other than Abraham's, since Christ is "the seed of Abraham;" none other than Jesse's, since Christ is the blossom of "the stem of Jesse;" none other than David's, since Christ is "the fruit of David's loins;" none other than Mary's, since Christ came from Mary's womb; and, higher still, none other than Adam's, since Christ is "the second Adam." The consequence, therefore, is that they must either maintain, that those (ancestors) had a spiritual flesh, that so there might be derived to Christ the same condition of substance, or else allow that the flesh of Christ was not a spiritual one, since it is not traced from the origin(14) of a spiritual stock.
CHAP. XXIII.--SIMEON'S "SIGN THAT SHOULD BE CONTRADICTED," APPLIED TO THE HERETICAL GAINSAYING OF THE TRUE BIRTH OF CHRIST. ONE OF THE HERETICS' PARADOXES TURNED IN SUPPORT OF CATHOLIC TRUTH.
We acknowledge, however, that the prophetic declaration of Simeon is fulfilled, which he spoke over the recently-born Saviour:(1) "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be spoken against."(2) The sign (here meant) is that of the birth of Christ, according to Isaiah: "Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son."(3) We discover, then, what the sign is which is to be spoken against--the conception and the parturition of the Virgin Mary, concerning which these sophists(4) say: "She a virgin and yet not a virgin bare, and yet did not bear;" just as if such language, if indeed it must be uttered, would not be more suitable even for ourselves to use! For "she bare," because she produced offspring of her own flesh and "yet she did not bear," since she produced Him not from a husband's seed; she was "a virgin," so far as (abstinence) from a husband went, and "yet not a virgin," as regards her bearing a child. There is not, however, that parity of reasoning which the heretics affect: in other words it does not follow that for the reason "she did not bear,"(5) she who was "not a virgin" was "yet a virgin," even because she became a mother without any fruit of her own womb. But with us there is no equivocation, nothing twisted into a double sense.(6) Light is light; and darkness, darkness; yea is yea; and nay, nay; "whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."(7) She who bare (really) bare; and although she was a virgin when she conceived, she was a wife(8) when she brought forth her son. Now, as a wife, she was under the very law of "opening the womb,"(9) wherein it was quite immaterial whether the birth of the male was by virtue of a husband's co-operation or not;(10) it was the same sex(11) that opened her womb. Indeed, hers is the womb on account of which it is written of others also: "Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord."(12) For who is really holy but the Son of God? Who properly opened the womb but He who opened a closed one?(13) But it is marriage which opens the womb in all cases. The virgin's womb, therefore, was especially(14) opened, because it was especially closed. Indeed(15) she ought rather to be called not a virgin than a virgin, becoming a mother at a leap, as it were, before she was a wife. And what must be said more on this point? Since it was in this sense that the apostle declared that the Son of God was born not of a virgin, but "of a woman," he in that statement recognised the condition of the "opened womb" which ensues in marriage.(16) We read in Ezekiel of "a heifer(17) which brought forth, and still did not bring forth." Now, see whether it was not in view of your own future contentions about the womb of Mary, that even then the Holy Ghost set His mark upon you in this passage; otherwise(18) He would not, contrary to His usual simplicity of style (in this prophet), have uttered a sentence of such doubtful import, especially when Isaiah says, "She shall conceive and bear a son."(19)
CHAP. XXIV.--DIVINE STRICTURES ON VARIOUS HERETICS DESCRIED IN VARIOUS PASSAGES OF PROPHETICAL SCRIPTURE. THOSE WHO ASSAIL THE TRUE DOCTRINE OF THE ONE LORD JESUS CHRIST, BOTH GOD AND MAN, THUS CONDEMNED.
For when Isaiah hurls denunciation against our very heretics, especially in his "Woe to them that call evil good, and put darkness for light,"(20) he of course sets his mark upon those amongst you(21) who preserve not in the words they employ the light of their true significance, (by taking care) that the soul should mean only that which is so called, and the flesh simply that which is confest to our view and God none other than the One who is preached.(22) Having thus Marcion in his prophetic view, he says, "I am God, and there is none else; there is no God beside me."(23) And when in another passage he says, in like manner, "Before me there was no God,"(24) he strikes at those inexplicable genealogies of the Valentinian AEons. Again, there is an answer to Ebion in the Scripture: "Born,(25) not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." In like manner, in the passage, "If even an angel of heaven preach unto you any other gospel than that which we have preached unto you, let him be anathema,"(1) he calls attention to the artful influence of Philumene,(2) the virgin friend of Apelles. Surely he is antichrist who denies that Christ has come in the flesh.(3) By declaring that His flesh is simply and absolutely true, and taken in the plain sense of its own nature, the Scripture aims a blow at all who make distinctions in it.(4) In the same way, also, when it defines the very Christ to be but one, it shakes the fancies of those who exhibit a multiform Christ, who make Christ to be one being and Jesus another,--representing one as escaping out of the midst of the crowds, and the other as detained by them; one as appearing on a solitary mountain to three companions, clothed with glory in a cloud, the other as an ordinary man holding intercourse with all,(5) one as magnanimous, but the other as timid; lastly, one as suffering death,the other as risen again, by means of which event they maintain a resurrection of their own also, only in another flesh. Happily, however, He who suffered "will come again from heaven,"(6) and by all shall He be seen, who rose again from the dead. They too who crucified Him shall see and acknowledge Him; that is to say, His very flesh, against which they spent their fury, and without which it would be impossible for Himself either to exist or to be seen; so that they must blush with shame who affirm that His flesh sits in heaven void of sensation, like a sheath only, Christ being withdrawn from it; as well as those who (maintain) that His flesh and soul are just the same thing,(7) or else that His soul is all that exists? but that His flesh no longer lives.
CHAP. XXV.--CONCLUSION.THIS TREATISE FORMS A PREFACE TO THE OTHER WORK, "ON "PROVING THE RESURRECTION OF THE FLESH," THE REALITY OF THE FLESH WHICH WAS TRULY BORN, AND DIED, AND ROSE AGAIN.
But let this suffice on our present subject; for I think that by this time proof enough has been adduced of the flesh in Christ having both been born of the virgin, and being human in its nature. And this discussion alone might have been sufficient, without encountering the isolated opinions which have been raised from different quarters. We have, however, challenged these opinions to the test, both of the arguments which sustain them, and of the Scriptures which are appealed to,and this we have done ex abundanti; so that we have, by showing what the flesh of Christ was, and whence it was derived, also predetermined the question, against all objectors, of what that flesh was not. The resurrection, however, of our own flesh will have to be maintained in another little treatise, and so bring to a close this present one, which serves as a general preface, and which will pave the way far the approaching subject now that it is plain what kind of body that was which rose again in Christ.
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