CHAP. XIX.--THE RICH WOMEN OF PIETY WHO FOLLOWED JESUS CHRIST'S TEACHING BY PARABLES. THE MARCIONITE CAVIL DERIVED FROM CHRIST'S REMARK, WHEN TOLD OF HIS MOTHER AND HIS BRETHREN. EXPLANATION OF CHRIST'S APPARENT REJECTION THEM.
The fact that certain rich women clave to Christ, "which ministered unto Him of their substance," amongst whom was the wife of the king's steward, is a subject of prophecy. By Isaiah the Lord called these wealthy ladies--"Rise up, ye women that are at ease, and hear my voice"(17)--that He might prove(18) them first as disciples, and then as assistants and helpers: "Daughters, hear my words in hope; this day of the year cherish the memory of, in labour with hope." For it was "in labour" that they followed Him, and "with hope" did they minister to Him.
On the subject of parables, let it suffice that it has been once for all shown that this kind of language(19) was with equal distinctness promised by the Creator. But there is that direct mode of His speaking(20) to the people"Ye shall hear with the ear, but ye shall not understand"(21)--which now claims notice as having furnished to Christ that frequent form of His earnest instruction: "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."(1) Not as if Christ, actuated with a diverse spirit, permitted a hearing which the Creator had refused; but because the exhortation followed the threatening. First came, "Ye shall hear with the ear, but shall not understand;" then followed, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." For they wilfully refused to hear, although they had ears. He, however, was teaching them that it was the ears of the heart which were necessary; and with these the Creator had said that they would not hear. Therefore it is that He adds by His Christ, "Take heed how ye hear,"(2) and hear not,--meaning, of course, with the hearing of the heart, not of the ear. If you only attach a proper, sense to the Creator's admonition(3) suitable to the meaning of Him who was rousing the people to hear by the words, "Take heed how ye hear," it amounted to a menace to such as would not hear. In fact,(4) that most merciful god of yours, who judges not, neither is angry, is minatory. This is proved even by the sentence which immediately follows: "Whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have."(5) What shall be given? The increase of faith, or understanding, or even salvation. What shall be taken away? That, of course, which shall be, given. By whom shall the gift and the deprivation be made? If by the Creator it be taken away, by Him also shall it be given. If by Marcion's god it be given, by Marcion's god also will it be taken away. Now, for whatever reason He threatens the "deprivation," it will not be the work of a god who knows not how to threaten, because incapable of anger.
I am, moreover, astonished when he says that "a candle is not usually hidden,"(6) who had hidden himself--a greater and more needful light--during so long a time; and when he promises that "everything shall be brought out of its secrecy and made manifest,"(7) who hitherto has kept his god in obscurity, waiting (I suppose) until Marcion be born.
We now come to the most strenuously-plied argument of all those who call in question the Lord's nativity. They say that He testifies Himself to His not having been born, when He asks, "Who is my mother, and who are my brethren?"(8) In this manner heretics either wrest plain and simple words to any sense they choose by their conjectures, or else they violently resolve by a literal interpretation words which imply a conditional sense and are incapable of a simple solution,(9) as in this passage. We, for our part, say in reply, first, that it could not possibly have been told Him that His mother and His brethren stood without, desiring to see Him, if He had had no mother and no brethren. They must have been known to him who announced them, either some time previously, or then at that very time, when they desired to see Him, or sent Him their message. To this our first position this answer is usually given by the other side. But suppose they sent Him the message for the purpose of tempting Him? Well, but the Scripture does not say so; and inasmuch as it is usual for it to indicate what is done in the way of temptation ("Behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted Him;"(10)again, when inquiring about tribute, the Pharisees came to Him, tempting Him(11)), so, when it makes no mention of temptation, it does not admit the interpretation of temptation. However, although I do not allow this sense, I may as well ask, by way of a superfluous refutation, for the reasons of the alleged temptation, To what purpose could they have tempted Him by naming His mother and His brethren? If it was to ascertain whether He had been born or not--when was a question raised on this point, which they must resolve by tempting Him in this way? Who could doubt His having been born, when they(12) saw Him before them a veritable man?--whom they had heard call Himself "Son of man?"--of whom they doubted whether He were God or Son of God, from seeing Him, as they did, in the perfect garb of human quality?--supposing Him rather to be a prophet, a great one indeed,(13) but still one who had been born as man? Even if it had been necessary that He should thus be tried in the investigation of His birth, surely any other proof would have better answered the trial than that to be obtained from mentioning those relatives which it was quite possible for Him, in spite of His true nativity, not at that moment to have had. For tell me now, does a mother live on contemporaneously(14) with her sons in every case? Have all sons brothers born for them?(15) May a man rather not have fathers and sisters (living), or even no relatives at all? But there is historical proof(1) that at this very time(2) a census had been taken in Judaea by Sentius Saturni-nus,(3) which might have satisfied their inquiry respecting the family and descent of Christ. Such a method of testing the point had therefore no consistency whatever in it and they "who were standing without" were really "His mother and His brethren." It remains for us to examine His meaning when He resorts to non-literal(4) words, saying "Who is my mother or my brethren?" It seems as if His language amounted to a denial of His family and His birth; but it arose actually from the absolute nature of the case, and the conditional sense in which His words were to be explained.(5) He was justly indignant, that persons so very near to Him" stood without," while strangers were within hanging on His words, especially as they wanted to call Him away from the solemn work He had in hand. He did not so much deny as disavow(6) them. And therefore, when to the previous question, "Who is my mother, and who are my brethren?(7) He added the answer "None but they who hear my words and do them," He transferred the names of blood-relationship to others, whom He judged to be more closely related to Him by reason of their faith. Now no one transfers a thing except from him who possesses that which is transferred. If, therefore, He made them "His mother and His brethren" who were not so, how could He deny them these reIationships who really had them? Surely only on the condition of their deserts, and not by any disavowal of His near relatives; teaching them by His own actual example,(8) that "whosoever preferred father or mother or brethren to the Word of God, was not a disciple worthy of Him."(9) Besides,(10) His admission of His mother and His brethren was the more express, from the fact of His unwillingness to acknowledge them. That He adopted others only confirmed those in their relationship to Him whom He refused because of their offence, and for whom He substituted the others, not as being truer relatives, but worthier ones. Finally, it was no great matter if He did prefer to kindred (that) faith which it(11) did not possess.(12)
CHAP. XX.--COMPARISON OF CHRIST'S POWER OVER WINDS AND WAVES WITH MOSES' COMMAND OF THE WATERS OF THE RED SEA AND THE JORDAN. CHRIST'S POWER OVER UNCLEAN SPIRITS. THE CASE OF THE LEGION THE CURE OF THE ISSUE OF BLOOD. THE MOSAIC UNCLEANNESS ON THIS POINT EXPLAINED.
But "what manner of man is this? for He commandeth even the winds and water!"(13) Of course He is the new master and proprietor of the elements, now that the Creator is deposed, and excluded from their possession! Nothing of the kind. But the elements own(14) their own Maker, just as they had been accustomed to obey His servants also. Examine well the Exodus, Marcion; look at the rod of Moses, as it waves His command to the Red Sea, ampler than all the lakes of Judaea. How the sea yawns from its very depths, then fixes itself in two solidified masses, and so, out of the interval between them,(15) makes a way for the people to pass dry-shod across; again does the same red vibrate, the sea returns in its strength, and in the concourse of its waters the chivalry of Egypt is engulphed! To that consummation the very winds subserved! Read, too, how that the Jordan was as a sword, to hinder the emigrant nation in their passage across its stream; how that its waters from above stood still, and its current below wholly ceased to run at the bidding of Joshua,(16) when his priests began to pass over!(17) What will you say to this? If it be your Christ that is meant say he will not be more potent than the servants of the Creator. But I should have been content with the examples I have adduced without addition,(1) if a prediction of His present passage on the sea had not preceded Christ's coming. As psalm is, in fact, accomplished by this(2) crossing over the lake. "The Lord," says the psalmist, "is upon many waters."(3) When He disperses its waves, Habakkuk's words are fulfilled, where he says, "Scattering the waters in His passage."(4) When at His rebuke the sea is calmed, Nahum is also verified: He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry,"(5) including the winds indeed, whereby it was disquieted. With what evidence would you have my Christ vindicated? Shall it come from the examples, or from the prophecies, of the Creator?
You suppose that He is predicted as a military and armed warrior,(6) instead of one who in a figurative and allegorical sense was to wage a spiritual warfare against spiritual enemies, in spiritual campaigns, and with spiritual weapons: come now, when in one man alone you discover a multitude of demons calling itself Legion,(7) of course comprised of spirits, you should learn that Christ also must be understood to be an exterminator of spiritual foes, who wields spiritual arms and fights in spiritual strife; and that it was none other than He,(8) who now had to contend with even a legion of demons. Therefore it is of such a war as this that the Psalm may evidently have spoken: "The Lord is strong, The Lord is mighty in battle."(9) For with the last enemy death did He fight, and through the trophy of the cross He triumphed. Now of what God did the Legion testify that Jesus was the Son?(10) No doubt, of that God whose torments and abyss they knew and dreaded. It seems impossible for them to have remained up to this time in ignorance of what the power of the recent and unknown god was working in the world, because it is very unlikely that the Creator was ignorant thereof. For if He had been at any time ignorant that there was another god above Himself, He had by this time at all events discovered that there was one at work(11) below His heaven. Now, what their Lord had discovered had by this time become notorious to His entire family within the same world and the same circuit of heaven, in which the strange deity dwelt and acted.(12) As therefore both the Creator and His creatures(13) must have had knowledge of him, if he had been in existence, so, inasmuch as he had no existence, the demons really knew none other than the Christ of their own God. They do not ask of the strange god, what they recollected they must beg of the Creator--not to be plunged into the Creator's abyss. They at last had their request granted. On what ground? Because they had lied? Because they had proclaimed Him to be the Son of a ruthless God? And what sort of god will that be who helped the lying, and upheld his detractors? However, no need of this thought, for,(14) inasmuch as they had not lied, inasmuch as they had acknowledged that the God of the abyss was also their God, so did He actually Himself affirm that He was the same whom these demons acknowledged--Jesus, the Judge and Son of the avenging God. Now, behold an inkling(15) of the Creator's failings(16) and infirmities in Christ; for I on my side(17) mean to impute to Him ignorance.
Allow me some indulgence in my effort against the heretic. Jesus is touched by the woman who had an issue of blood,(18) He knew not by whom. "Who touched me?" He asks, when His disciples alleged an excuse. He even persists in His assertion of ignorance: "Somebody hath touched me," He says, and advances some proof: "For I perceive that virtue is gone out of me." What says our heretic? Could Christ have known the person? And why did He speak as if He were ignorant? Why? Surely it was to challenge her faith, and to try her fear. Precisely as He had once questioned Adam, as if in ignorance: Adam, where art thou?"(19) Thus you have both the Creator excused in the same way as Christ, and Christ acting similarly to(20) the Creator. But in this case He acted as an adversary of the law; and therefore, as the law forbids contact with a woman with an issue,(21) He desired not only that this woman should touch Him, but that He should heal her.(23) Here, then, is a God who is not merciful by nature, but in hostility! Yet, if we find that such was the merit of this woman's faith, that He said unto her, Thy faith hath saved thee."(1) what are you, that you should detect an hostility to the law in that act, which the Lord Himself shows us to have been done as a reward of faith? But will you have it that this faith of the woman consisted in the contempt which she had acquired for the law? Who can suppose, that a woman who had been. hitherto unconscious of any God, uninitiated as yet in any new law, should violently infringe that law by which she was up to this time bound? On what faith, indeed, was such an infringement hazarded? In what God believing? Whom despising? The Creator? Her touch at least was an act of faith. And if of faith in the Creator, how could she have violated His law,(2) when she was ignorant of any other God? Whatever her infringement of the law amounted to, it proceeded from and was proportionate to her faith in the Creator. But how can these two things be compatible? That she violated the law, and violated it in faith, which ought to have restrained her from such violation? I will tell you how her faith was this above all:(3) it made her believe that her God preferred mercy even to sacrifice; she was certain that her God was working in Christ; she touched Him, therefore, nor as a holy man simply, nor as a prophet, whom she knew to be capable of contamination by reason of his human nature, but as very God, whom she assumed to be beyond all possibility of pollution by any uncleanness.(4) She therefore, not without reason,(5) interpreted for herself the law, as meaning that such things as are susceptible of defilement become defiled, but not so God, whom she knew for certain to be in Christ. But she recollected this also, that what came under the prohibition of the law(6) was that ordinary and usual issue of blood which proceeds from natural functions every month, and in childbirth, not that which was the result of disordered health. Her case, however, was one of long abounding(7) ill health, for which she knew that the succour of God's mercy was needed, and not the natural relief of time. And thus she may: evidently be regarded as having discerned(8) the law, instead of breaking it. This will prove to be the faith which was to confer intelligence likewise. "If ye will not believe," says (the prophet), "ye shall not understand."(9) When Christ approved of the faith of this woman, which simply rested in the Creator, He declared by His answer to her,(10) that He was Himself the divine object of the faith of which He approved. Nor can I overlook the fact that His garment, by being touched, demonstrated also the truth of His body; for of course"(11) it was a body, and not a phantom, which the garment clothed.(12) This indeed is not our point now; but the remark has a natural bearing on the question we are discussing. For if it were not a veritable body, but only a fantastic one, it could not for certain have received contamination, as being an unsubstantial thing.(13) He therefore, who, by reason of this vacuity of his substance, was incapable of contamination, how could he possibly have desired this touch?(14) As an adversary of the law, his conduct was deceitful, for he was not susceptible of a real pollution.
CHAP. XXI.--CHRIST'S CONNECTION WITH THE CREATOR SHOWN FROM SEVERAL INCIDENTS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, COMPARED WITH ST. LUKE'S NARRATIVE OF THE MISSION OF THE DISCIPLES. THE FEEDING OF THE MULTITUDE. THE CONFESSION OF ST. PETER.BEING ASHAMED OF CHRIST. THIS SHAME IS ONLY POSSIBLE OF THE TRUE CHRIST. MARCIONITE PRETENSIONS ABSURD.
He sends forth His disciples to preach the kingdom of God.(15) Does He here say of what God? He forbids their taking anything for their journey, by way of either food or raiment. Who would have given such a commandment as this, but He who feeds the ravens and clothes(16) the flowers of the field? Who anciently enjoined for the treading ox an unmuzzled mouth,(17) that he might be at liberty to gather his fodder from his labour, on the principle that the worker is worthy of his hire?(18) Marcion may expunge such precepts, but no matter, provided the sense of them survives. But when He charges them to shake off the dust of their feet against such as should refuse to receive them, He also bids that this be done as a witness. Now no one bears witness except in a case which is decided by judicial process; and whoever orders inhuman conduct to be submitted to the trial by testimony,(1) does really threaten as a judge.
Again, that it was no new god which recommended(2) by Christ, was dearly attested by the opinion of all men, because some maintained to Herod that Jesus was the Christ; others, that He was John; some, that He was Elias; and others, that He was one of the old prophetss.(3) Now, whosoever of all these He might have been, He certainly was not raised up for the purpose of announcing another god after His resurrection.
He feeds the multitude in the desert place;(4) this, you must knows(5) was after the manner of the Old Testament.(6) Or else,(7) if there was not the same grandeur, it follows that He is now inferior to the Creator. For He, not for one day, but during forty years, not on the inferior aliment of bread and fish, but with the manna of heaven, supported the lives(8) of not five thousand, but of six hundred thousand human beings. However, such was the greatness of His miracle, that He willed the slender supply of food, not only to be enough, but even to prove superabundant;(9) and herein He followed the ancient precedent. For in like manner, during the famine in Elijah's time, the scanty and final meal of the widow of Sarepta was multiplied(10) by the blessing of the prophet throughout the period of the famine. You have the third book of the Kings.(11) If you also turn to the fourth book, you will discover all this conduct(12) of Christ pursued by that man of God, who ordered ten(13) barley loaves which had been given him to be distributed among the people; and when his servitor, after contrasting the large number of the persons with the small supply of the food, answered, "What, shall I set this before a hundred men?" he said again, "Give them, and they shall eat: for thus saith the Lord, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof, according to the word of the Lord."
(14) O Christ, even in Thy novelties Thou art old! Accordingly, when Peter, who had been an eye-witness of the miracle, and had compared it with the ancient precedents, and had discovered in them prophetic intimations of what should one day come to pass, answered (as the mouthpiece of them all) the Lord's inquiry, "Whom say ye that I am?"(15) in the words, "Thou art the Christ," he could not but have perceived that He was that Christ, beside whom he knew of none else in the Scriptures, and whom he was now surveying(16) in His wonderful deeds. This conclusion He even Himself confirms by thus far bearing with it, nay, even enjoining silence respecting it.(17) For if Peter was unable to acknowledge Him to be any other than the Creator's Christ, while He commanded them "to tell no man that saying," surely(18) He was unwilling to have the conclusion promulged which Peter had drawn.
No doubt of that,(19) you say; but as Peter's conclusion was a wrong one, therefore He was unwilling to have a lie disseminated. It was, however, a different reason which He assigned for the silence, even because "the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and scribes, and priests, and be slain, and be raised again the third day."(20) Now, inasmuch as these sufferings were actually foretold for the Creator's Christ (as we shall fully show in the proper place(21)), so by this application of them to His own case(22) does He prove that it is He Himself of whom they were predicted. At all events, even if they had not been predicted, the reason which He alleged for imposing silence (on the disciples) was such as made it clear enough that Peter had made no mistake, that reason being the necessity of His undergoing these sufferings.
"Whosoever," says He, "will save his life, shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it."(23) Surely(24) it is the Son of man(25) who uttered this sentence. Look carefully, then, along with the king of Babylon, into his burning fiery furnace, and there you will discover one "like the Son of man" (for He was not yet really Son of man, because not yet born of man), even as early as then(26) appointing issues such as these. He saved the lives of the three brethren,(27) who had agreed to lose them for God's sake; but He destroyed those of the Chaldaeans, when they had preferred to save them by the means of their idolatry. Where is that novelty, which you pretend(28) in a doctrine which possesses these ancient proofs? But all the predictions have been fulfilled(29) concerning martydoms which were to happen, and were to receive the recompenses of their reward from God. "See," says Isaiah, "how the righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart; and just men are taken away, and no man considereth."(1) When does this more frequently happen than in the persecution of His saints? This, indeed, is no ordinary matter,(2) no common casualty of the law of nature; but it is that illustrious devotion, that fighting for the faith, wherein whosoever loses his life for God saves it, so that you may here again recognize the Judge who recompenses the evil gain of life with its destruction, and the good loss thereof with its salvation. It is, however, a jealous God whom He here presents to me one who returns evil for evil.
"For whosoever," says He, "shall be ashamed of me, of him will I also be ashamed."(3) Now to none but my Christ can be assigned the occasion(4) of such a shame as this. His whole course(5) was so exposed to shame as to open a way for even the taunts of heretics, declaiming(6) with all the bitterness in their power against the utter disgrace(7) of His birth and bringing-up, and the unworthiness of His very flesh.(8) But how can that Christ of yours be liable to a shame, which it is impossible for him to experience? Since he was never condensed(9) into human flesh in the womb of a woman, although a virgin; never grew from human seed, although only after the law of corporeal substance, from the fluids(10) of a woman; was never deemed flesh before shaped in the womb; never called foetus(11) after such shaping; was never delivered from a ten months' writhing in the womb;(12) was never shed forth upon the ground, amidst the sudden pains of parturition, with the unclean issue which flows at such a time through the sewerage of the body, forthwith to inaugurate the light(13) of life with tears, and with that primal wound which severs the child from her who bears him;(14) never received the copious ablution, nor the meditation of salt and honey;(15) nor did he initiate a shroud with swaddling clothes;(16) nor afterwards did he ever wallow(17) in his own uncleanness, in his mother's lap; nibbling at her breast; long an infant; gradually(18) a boy; by slow degrees(19) a man.(20) But he was revealed(21) from heaven, full-grown at once, at once complete; immediately Christ; simply spirit, and power, and god. But as withal he was not true, because not visible; therefore he was no object to be ashamed of from the curse of the cross, the real endurance(22) of which he escaped, because wanting in bodily substance. Never, therefore, could he have said, "Whosever shall be ashamed of me." But as for our Christ, He could do no otherwise than make such a declaration;(23) "made" by the Father "a little lower than the angels,"(24) "a worm and no man, a reproach of men, and despised of the people;"(25) seeing that it was His will that "with His stripes we should be healed,"(26) that by His humiliation our salvation should be established. And justly did He humble Himself(27) for His own creature man, for the image and likeness of Himself, and not of another, in order that man, since he had not felt ashamed when bowing down to a stone or a stock, might with similar courage give satisfaction to God for the shamelessness of his idolatry, by displaying an equal degree of shamelessness in his faith, in not being ashamed of Christ. Now, Marcion, which of these courses is better suited to your Christ, in respect of a meritorious shame?(28) Plainly, you ought yourself to blush with shame for having given him a fictitious existence.(29)