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Tertullian on Marcion

Discussion in 'History Forum' started by Bob Hope, Feb 16, 2016.

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  1. Bob Hope

    Bob Hope Member

    Nov 1, 2012
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    BOOK I

    1. Nothing I have previously written against Marcion is any
    longer my concern. I am embarking upon a new work to replace
    an old one. My first edition, too hurriedly produced, I afterwards
    withdrew, substituting a fuller treatment. This also, before enough
    copies had been made, was stolen from me by a person, at that
    time a Christian but afterwards an apostate, who chanced to have
    copied out some extracts very incorrectly, and shewed them to a
    group of people. Hence the need for correction. The opportunity
    provided by this revision has moved me to make some additions.
    Thus this written work, a third succeeding a second, and instead
    of third from now on the first, needs to begin by reporting the
    demise of the work it supersedes, so that no one may be perplexed
    if in one place or another he comes across varying forms of it.

    The sea called Euxine, or hospitable, is belied by its nature
    and put to ridicule by its name. Even its situation would prevent
    you from reckoning Pontus hospitable: as though ashamed of its
    own barbarism it has set itself at a distance from our more civilized
    waters. Strange tribes inhabit it—if indeed living in a wagon can
    be called inhabiting.1 These have no certain dwelling-place: their
    life is uncouth: their sexual activity is promiscuous, and for the
    most part unhidden even when they hide it: they advertise it by
    hanging a quiver on the yoke of the wagon, so that none may
    inadvertently break in. So little respect have they for their weapons
    of war. They carve up their fathers' corpses along with mutton, to
    gulp down at banquets. If any die in a condition not good for
    eating, their death is a disgrace. Women also have lost the gentle-
    ness, along with the modesty, of their sex. They display their
    breasts, they do their house-work with battle-axes, they prefer
    fighting to matrimonial duty. There is sternness also in the
    climate—never broad daylight, the sun always niggardly, the
    only air they have is fog, the whole year is winter, every wind
    that blows is the north wind. Water becomes water only by heat-
    ing: rivers are no rivers, only ice: mountains are piled high up

    1. 1 On the customs of the Massagetae, Herodotus i. 216.

    with snow: all is torpid, everything stark. Savagery is there the
    only thing warm—such savagery as has provided the theatre
    with tales of Tauric sacrifices, Colchian love-affairs, and Cauca-
    sian crucifixions.

    Even so, the most barbarous and melancholy thing about
    Pontus is that Marcion was born there, more uncouth than
    a Scythian, more unsettled than a Wagon-dweller, more un-
    civilized than a Massagete, with more effrontery than an Amazon,
    darker than fog, colder than winter, more brittle than ice, more
    treacherous than the Danube, more precipitous than Caucasus.
    Evidently so, when by him the true Prometheus, God Almighty,
    is torn to bits with blasphemies. More ill-conducted also is
    Marcion than the wild beasts of that barbarous land: for is any
    beaver more self-castrating than this man who has abolished
    marriage? What Pontic mouse is more corrosive than the man
    who has gnawed away the Gospels? Truly the Euxine has given
    birth to a wild animal more acceptable to philosophers than to
    Christians: that dog-worshipper Diogenes carried a lamp about
    at midday, looking to find a man, whereas Marcion by putting
    out the light of his own faith has lost the God whom once he
    had found.2 His followers cannot deny that his faith at first agreed
    with ours, for his own letter proves it: so that without further ado
    that man can be marked down as a heretic, or 'chooser', who,
    forsaking what had once been, has chosen for himself that which
    previously was not. For that which is of later importation must
    needs be reckoned heresy, precisely because that has to be con-
    sidered truth which was delivered of old and from the beginning.
    But a different work of mine will be found to maintain this thesis
    against heretics, that even without discussion of their doctrines
    they can be proved to be such by this standing rule concerning
    novelty. At present however, seeing that a contest cannot be
    refused—for there is sometimes a danger that frequent recourse
    to the short-cut of that standing rule may be put down to lack
    of confidence—I shall begin by sketching out my opponent's
    doctrine, so that no one may be unaware of this which is to be
    our principal matter of contention.

    1. 2 Sinope, Marcion's birthplace, was a Greek city, founded 756 B.C., and
    therefore far from barbarous. Tertullian may have remembered that certain
    Cimmerians from the north, pursued by Scythians, had settled at Sinope: Hdt.
    iv. 12. Diogenes the Cynic was born there: Diog. Laert. vi. 41.


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