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Chapter IV.—Another Instance of Marcion’s Tampering with St. Paul’s Text.  The Fulness of Time, Announced by the Apostle, Foretold by the Prophets. Mosaic Rites Abrogated by the Creator Himself. Marcion’s Tricks About Abraham’s Name. The Creator, by His Christ, the Fountain of the Grace and the Liberty Which St. Paul Announced. Marcion’s Docetism Refuted.

“But,” says he, “I speak after the manner of men: when we were children, we were placed in bondage under the elements of the world.” 5322 This, however, was not said “after the manner of men.” For there is no figure 5323 here, but literal truth. For (with respect to the latter clause of this passage), what child (in the sense, that is, in which the Gentiles are children) is not in bondage to the elements of the world, which he looks up to 5324 in the light of a god? With regard, however, to the former clause, there was a figure (as the apostle wrote it); because after he had said, “I speak after the manner of men,” he adds), “Though it be but a man’s covenant, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.” 5325 For by the figure of the permanency of a human covenant he was defending the divine testament. “To Abraham were the promises made, and to his seed. He said not ‘to seeds,’ as of many; but as of one, ‘to thy seed,’ which is Christ.” 5326 Fie on 5327 Marcion’s sponge! But indeed it is superfluous to dwell on what he has erased, when he may be more effectually confuted from that which he has retained. 5328 “But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son” 5329 —the God, of course, who is the Lord of that p. 436 very succession of times which constitutes an age; who also ordained, as “signs” of time, suns and moons and constellations and stars; who furthermore both predetermined and predicted that the revelation of His Son should be postponed to the end of the times. 5330 “It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain (of the house) of the Lord shall be manifested”; 5331 “and in the last days I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh” 5332 as Joel says. It was characteristic of Him (only) 5333 to wait patiently for the fulness of time, to whom belonged the end of time no less than the beginning. But as for that idle god, who has neither any work nor any prophecy, nor accordingly any time, to show for himself, what has he ever done to bring about the fulness of time, or to wait patiently its completion? If nothing, what an impotent state to have to wait for the Creator’s time, in servility to the Creator! But for what end did He send His Son? “To redeem them that were under the law,” 5334 in other words, to “make the crooked ways straight, and the rough places smooth,” as Isaiah says 5335 —in order that old things might pass away, and a new course begin, even “the new law out of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem,” 5336 and “that we might receive the adoption of sons,” 5337 that is, the Gentiles, who once were not sons.  For He is to be “the light of the Gentiles,” and “in His name shall the Gentiles trust.” 5338 That we may have, therefore the assurance that we are the children of God, “He hath sent forth His Spirit into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” 5339 For “in the last days,” saith He, “I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.” 5340

Now, from whom comes this grace, but from Him who proclaimed the promise thereof? Who is (our) Father, but He who is also our Maker?  Therefore, after such affluence (of grace), they should not have returned “to weak and beggarly elements.” 5341 By the Romans, however, the rudiments of learning are wont to be called elements. He did not therefore seek, by any depreciation of the mundane elements, to turn them away from their god, although, when he said just before, “Howbeit, then, ye serve them which by nature are no gods,” 5342 he censured the error of that physical or natural superstition which holds the elements to be god; but at the God of those elements he aimed not in this censure. 5343 He tells us himself clearly enough what he means by “elements,” even the rudiments of the law: “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years” 5344 —the sabbaths, I suppose, and “the preparations,” 5345 and the fasts, and the “high days.” 5346 For the cessation of even these, no less than of circumcision, was appointed by the Creator’s decrees, who had said by Isaiah, “Your new moons, and your sabbaths, and your high days I cannot bear; your fasting, and feasts, and ceremonies my soul hateth;” 5347 also by Amos, “I hate, I despise your feast-days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies;” 5348 and again by Hosea, “I will cause to cease all her mirth, and her feast-days, and her sabbaths, and her new moons, and all her solemn assemblies.” 5349 The institutions which He set up Himself, you ask, did He then destroy? Yes, rather than any other. Or if another destroyed them, he only helped on the purpose of the Creator, by removing what even He had condemned. But this is not the place to discuss the question why the Creator abolished His own laws. It is enough for us to have proved that He intended such an abolition, that so it may be affirmed that the apostle determined nothing to the prejudice of the Creator, since the abolition itself proceeds from the Creator. But as, in the case of thieves, something of the stolen goods is apt to drop by the way, as a clue to their detection; so, as it seems to me, it has happened to Marcion: the last mention of Abraham’s name he has left untouched (in the epistle), although no passage required his erasure more than this, even his partial alteration of the text. 5350 “For (it is written) that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bond maid, the other by a free woman; but he who was of the bond maid was born after the flesh, but he of the free woman was by promise: which things are allegorized” 5351 (that is to say, they presaged something besides the literal history); “for these are the p. 437 two covenants,” or the two exhibitions (of the divine plans), 5352 as we have found the word interpreted, “the one from the Mount Sinai,” in relation to the synagogue of the Jews, according to the law, “which gendereth to bondage”—“the other gendereth” (to liberty, being raised) above all principality, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but in that which is to come, “which is the mother of us all,” in which we have the promise of (Christ’s) holy church; by reason of which he adds in conclusion: “So then, brethren, we are not children of the bond woman, but of the free.” 5353 In this passage he has undoubtedly shown that Christianity had a noble birth, being sprung, as the mystery of the allegory indicates, from that son of Abraham who was born of the free woman; whereas from the son of the bond maid came the legal bondage of Judaism. Both dispensations, therefore, emanate from that same God by whom, 5354 as we have found, they were both sketched out beforehand. When he speaks of “the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,” 5355 does not the very phrase indicate that He is the Liberator who was once the Master? For Galba himself never liberated slaves which were not his own, even when about to restore free men to their liberty. 5356 By Him, therefore, will liberty be bestowed, at whose command lay the enslaving power of the law. And very properly. It was not meet that those who had received liberty should be “entangled again with the yoke of bondage” 5357 —that is, of the law; now that the Psalm had its prophecy accomplished: “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us, since the rulers have gathered themselves together against the Lord and against His Christ.” 5358 All those, therefore, who had been delivered from the yoke of slavery he would earnestly have to obliterate the very mark of slavery—even circumcision, on the authority of the prophet’s prediction. He remembered how that Jeremiah had said, “Circumcise the foreskins of your heart;” 5359 as Moses likewise had enjoined, “Circumcise your hard hearts” 5360 —not the literal flesh. If, now, he were for excluding circumcision, as the messenger of a new god, why does he say that “in Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision?” 5361 For it was his duty to prefer the rival principle of that which he was abolishing, if he had a mission from the god who was the enemy of circumcision.

Furthermore, since both circumcision and uncircumcision were attributed to the same Deity, both lost their power 5362 in Christ, by reason of the excellency of faith—of that faith concerning which it had been written, “And in His name shall the Gentiles trust?” 5363 —of that faith “which,” he says “worketh by love.” 5364 By this saying he also shows that the Creator is the source of that grace. For whether he speaks of the love which is due to God, or that which is due to one’s neighbor—in either case, the Creator’s grace is meant: for it is He who enjoins the first in these words, “Thou shalt love God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength;” 5365 and also the second in another passage:  “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” 5366 “But he that troubleth you shall have to bear judgment.” 5367 From what God? From (Marcion’s) most excellent god? But he does not execute judgment. From the Creator? But neither will He condemn the maintainer of circumcision. Now, if none other but the Creator shall be found to execute judgment, it follows that only He, who has determined on the cessation of the law, shall be able to condemn the defenders of the law; and what, if he also affirms the law in that portion of it where it ought (to be permanent)? “For,” says he, “all the law is fulfilled in you by this:  ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’” 5368 If, indeed, he will have it that by the words “it is fulfilled” it is implied that the law no longer has to be fulfilled, then of course he does not mean that I should any more love my neighbour as myself, since this precept must have ceased together with the law. But no! we must evermore continue to observe this commandment. The Creator’s law, therefore, has received the approval of the rival god, who has, in fact, bestowed upon it not the sentence of a summary dismissal, 5369 but the favour of a compendious acceptance; 5370 p. 438 the gist of it all being concentrated in this one precept! But this condensation of the law is, in fact, only possible to Him who is the Author of it.  When, therefore, he says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” 5371 since this cannot be accomplished except a man love his neighbour as himself, it is evident that the precept, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (which, in fact, underlies the injunction, “Bear ye one another’s burdens”), is really “the law of Christ,” though literally the law of the Creator. Christ, therefore, is the Creator’s Christ, as Christ’s law is the Creator’s law.  “Be not deceived, 5372 God is not mocked.” 5373 But Marcion’s god can be mocked; for he knows not how to be angry, or how to take vengeance. “For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” 5374 It is then the God of recompense and judgment who threatens 5375 this. “Let us not be weary in well-doing;” 5376 and “as we have opportunity, let us do good.” 5377 Deny now that the Creator has given a commandment to do good, and then a diversity of precept may argue a difference of gods. If, however, He also announces recompense, then from the same God must come the harvest both of death 5378 and of life. But “in due time we shall reap;” 5379 because in Ecclesiastes it is said, “For everything there will be a time.” 5380 Moreover, “the world is crucified unto me,” who am a servant of the Creator—“the world,” (I say,) but not the God who made the world—“and I unto the world,” 5381 not unto the God who made the world. The world, in the apostle’s sense, here means life and conversation according to worldly principles; it is in renouncing these that we and they are mutually crucified and mutually slain. He calls them “persecutors of Christ.” 5382 But when he adds, that “he bare in his body the scars 5383 of Christ”—since scars, of course, are accidents of body 5384 —he therefore expressed the truth, that the flesh of Christ is not putative, but real and substantial, 5385 the scars of which he represents as borne upon his body.



This apparent quotation is in fact a patching together of two sentences from Gal. 3:15, Gal. 4:3 (Fr. Junius). “If I may be allowed to guess from the manner in which Tertullian expresseth himself, I should imagine that Marcion erased the whole of chap. iii. after the word λέγω in Gal. 3.15-4.3. Then the words will be connected thus: ‘Brethren, I speak after the manner of men…when we were children we were in bondage under the elements of the world; but when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son.’ This is precisely what the argument of Tertullian requires, and they are the very words which he connects together” (Lardner, Hist. of Heretics, x. 43). Dr. Lardner, touching Marcion’s omissions in this chap. iii. of the Epistle to the Galatians, says: “He omitted Gal. 3.6-8, in order to get rid of the mention of Abraham, and of the gospel having been preached to him.” This he said after St. Jerome, and then adds: “He ought also to have omitted part of Gal. 3.9, σὺν τῷ πιστῷ ᾽Αβραάμ, which seems to have been the case, according to T.’s manner of stating the argument against him” (Works, History of Heretics, x. 43).






Gal. iii. 15. This, of course, is consistent in St. Paul’s argument. Marcion, however, by erasing all the intervening verses, and affixing the phrase “after the manner of men” to the plain assertion of Gal. iv. 3, reduces the whole statement to an absurdity.


Gal. iii. 16.




So, instead of pursuing the contents of Gal. 3., he proceeds to such of Gal. 4. as Marcion reserved.


Gal. iv. 4.


In extremitatem temporum.


Isa. ii. 2 (Sept).


Joel iii. 28, as quoted by St. Peter, Acts ii. 17.




Gal. iv. 5.


Isa. xl. 4.


Isa. ii. 3.


Gal. iv. 5.


Isa. 42:4, 6.


Gal. iv. 6.


Joel iii. 28, as given in Acts ii. 17.


Gal. iv. 9.


Gal. iv. 8.


Nec sic taxans.


Gal. iv. 10.


Cœnas puras: probably the παρασκευαί mentioned in John xix. 31.


See also John xix. 31.


Isa. 1:13, 14.


Amos v. 21.


Hos. ii. 11.


In other words, Marcion has indeed tampered with the passage, omitting some things; but (strange to say) he has left untouched the statement which, from his point of view, most required suppression.


Allegorica: on the importance of rendering ἀλληγορούμενα by this participle rather than by the noun “an allegory,” as in A.V., see Bp. Marsh’s Lectures on the Interpretation of the Bible, pp. 351–354.


Ostensiones: revelationes perhaps.


Gal. 4:21, 31.


Apud quem.


Gal. v. 1.


Tertullian, in his terse style, takes the case of the emperor, as the highest potentate, who, if any, might make free with his power. He seizes the moment when Galba was saluted emperor on Nero’s death, and was the means of delivering so many out of the hands of the tyrant, in order to sharpen the point of his illustration.


Gal. v. 1.


Ps. 2:3, 2.


Jer. iv. 4.


Deut. x. 16.


Gal. v. 6.


Utraque vacabat.


Isa. xlii. 4.


Gal. v. 6.


Deut. vi. 5.


Lev. xix. 18.


Gal. v. 10.


Gal. v. 14.




Compendium: the terseness of the original cannot be preserved in the translation.


Gal. vi. 2.


Erratis: literally, “ye are deceived.”


Gal. vi. 7.


Gal. vi. 7.




Gal. vi. 9.


Gal. vi. 10.




Gal. vi. 9.


Eccles. iii. 17.


Gal. vi. 14.


See Gal. vi. 17, κόπους μοι μηδεὶς παρεχέτω, “let no one harass me.”


Stigmata: the scars not of circumcision, but of wounds suffered for His sake (Conybeare and Howson).





Next: The First Epistle to the Corinthians. The Pauline Salutation of Grace and Peace Shown to Be Anti-Marcionite. The Cross of Christ Purposed by the Creator.  Marcion Only Perpetuates the Offence and Foolishness of Christ's Cross by His Impious Severance of the Gospel from the Creator. Analogies Between the Law and the Gospel in the Matter of Weak Things, and Foolish Things and Base Things.