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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.


1.1 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 5

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.


1.2 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 7

2. This man of Pontus presents us with two gods, as it were the
two Clashing Rocks on which he suffers shipwreck: the one the
Creator, whom he cannot deny, which is our God: the other,
whom he cannot prove, a god of his own.1 The unhappy man
became afflicted with the idea of this wild guess in consequence
of that plain statement which our Lord made, which applies to
men, not to gods, the example of the good tree and the bad, that
neither does the good tree bring forth bad fruit nor the bad
tree good fruita—that is, that a good mind or a good faith does
not produce evil actions, nor an evil mind and faith good ones.
For, like many even in our day, heretics in particular, Marcion
had an unhealthy interest in the problem of evil—the origin of
it—and his perceptions were numbed by the very excess of his
curiosity. So when he found the Creator declaring, It is I who
create evil things
,b in that he had, from other arguments which
make that impression on the perverse, already assumed him to
be the author of evil, he interpreted with reference to the Creator
the evil tree that creates evil fruit—namely, evil things in general—
and assumed that there had to be another god to correspond with
the good tree which brings forth good fruits. Discovering then
in Christ as it were a different dispensation of sole and unadul-
terated benevolence, an opposite character to the Creator's, he
found it easy to argue for a new and hitherto unknown divinity
revealed in its own Christ, and thus with a little leaven has em-
bittered with heretical acidity the whole mass of the faith.c He
was acquainted also with a certain Cerdo, who gave shape to
this outrage.2 And so the blind were easily led to think they had
a clear prospect of two gods, in that they had no accurate view
of the one God. To the blear-eyed a single lamp looks double.
So then the one God, whose existence he was forced to admit,
Marcion has overthrown by slandering him as responsible for
evil: the other, whom he constrained himself to invent, he has
set up on a scaffolding of goodness. My own answers will make it
clear in what specific terms he has portioned out these two sets
of attributes.

2. 1 In this translation 'God', 'Lord', 'Creator' (with capital letters) refer to
the God of the Old and the New Testaments: with small letters 'god' and 'lord'
refer either to heathen gods or to Marcion's imagined superior or 'stranger' god.
2 Cerdo, active in Rome about A.D. 130, was in some sense the informator
of Marcion: Irenaeus, A.H. I. xxiv (with Harvey's notes), quoted by Eusebius,
H.E. iv. 10.


1.3 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 9

3. The principal, and consequently the entire, matter of discus-
sion is one of number, whether it is permissible to suggest the
existence of two gods. Perhaps so, by poets' or painters' licence,
and now by heretical licence for a third. But Christian verity has
decisively asserted that if God is not one only, he does not exist:
because it is more reasonable to admit the non-existence of that
which does not exist in such manner as it ought. If you would
know that God must needs be one only, inquire what God is,
and you will find no other answer. In so far as human limitation1
can make any definition concerning God, I give that definition
which all men's common sense will accept, that God is the
supremely great, firmly established in eternity, unbegotten, un-
created, without beginning and without end. For this status,1 I
say, has to be assigned to that eternity by virtue of which God
is supremely great, that in God it is itself supremely great, and
so are the other attributes besides: so that God is supreme great-
ness in both form and reason and power and authority. Since
there is universal agreement on this—for no one can deny that
God is an entity supremely great, except perhaps one who can
by contrariety pronounce God an entity moderately little, so as
to deny his godhead by depriving him of all that is characteristic
of God—what then must be the character of that entity itself
supremely great? Surely that it has nothing to equal it, that is,
that there exists no other thing supremely great: because if there
is it will have an equal, and if it has an equal it can no longer be
the supremely great, except by a reversal of that condition1 and,
so to speak, that law which precludes anything being accounted
equal to that which is supremely great. Therefore that which is
supremely great is of necessity singular, as having no fellow: else
it will not be supremely great. And therefore it can only exist as
being what it has to be, entirely singular. Consequently, as God
is the supremely great, rightly has our <Christian> verity pro-
nounced that if God is not one God, he is no god. Not as though
we doubt God's existence when we say that if he is not one alone
he is not at all, but because, convinced that he does exist, we
define him as being that which if he is not he is not God, namely
the supremely great. But the supremely great must needs be
singular. And so also God has to be singular: for he is God only
by being the supremely great, as he is supremely great only by

3. 1 On conditio, status, condicio and other technical terms see Appendix I.


1.4 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 11

having no fellow, and he can have no fellow only by being one
and alone. Truly, whatever other god you suppose exists, you can
on no other plea defend his divinity, but only by ascribing to him
that essential attribute of divinity, eternity, and with it supreme
greatness. How then can there co-exist two things supremely
great, when it is of the essence of supreme greatness to have no
fellow, while to have no fellow is contingent upon unity, and in
duality is utterly impossible?

4. But someone will perhaps assert the possibility of the co-
existence of two entities supremely great, distinct and separate
each in its own sphere, adducing as an example the kingdoms of
the world, many in number, yet each supremely great in its own
territories, and will suppose that at every point things human can
be compared with things divine. Now if admission be granted to
this supposition, what is to prevent the introduction, I say not of
a third god and a fourth, but of as many gods as there are kings
of the nations? The subject of our discussion is God, whose pri-
mary characteristic it is to exclude comparison with any simili-
tude whatsoever. Nature itself will tell of this, not to mention
such a one as Isaiah, or rather God, who asks by Isaiah, To whom
will ye liken me?a
Human attributes may perchance be comparable
with divine, but not with God: for God is one thing, his attributes
another. Again, when you make use of this example of the king
as supremely great, you may perhaps be at fault: for though a
king is the supremely great on his own throne, next after God,
yet is he inferior to God, and when brought into comparison with
God must be deposed from his supreme greatness, as that is trans-
ferred back to God. This being so, how can you use, for com-
parison with God, the example of a fact which, as soon as it
comes into comparison, escapes away from you? And what is
more, not even among kings can supreme greatness be seen to
be plural, but sole and singular, attached in fact to that one who,
as king of kings, is because of the supremacy of his own greatness
and the subjection of the others in rank, set up separate and alone,
as a sort of pinnacle of domination. For if kings of that other class,
those who are in sole pre-eminence over a single empire, are
compared at all points with petty kingdoms, so to express it, so
as to decide which of them is superior in the faculties and powers
of kingship, the supremacy of greatness must of necessity be


1.5 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 13

poured back into one alone, the others having turn by turn, as
the comparison took its course, been crowded out and shut away
from the summit of greatness. Thus although in separate instances
supreme greatness seems to exist in plurality, yet in its own powers
and its own nature and estate it is one and alone. Consequently
when two gods are brought into comparison, as it might be two
kings or two supreme greatnesses, the singularity of supreme
greatness cannot avoid, as the comparison is brought to a deci-
sion, falling to the one or the other of them: because its supremacy
results from its own victory, the defeat of its rival, that other
greatness which is not supreme: and since by the failure of its
rival it acquires a kind of solitude through the singleness of its
pre-eminence, it is one and alone. This incontrovertible sequence
of thought enforces a decision in this sense, that we must either
say that God is not the supremely great—which no man in his
senses will permit—or else abstain from making him take shares
with any other.

5. Besides, what sort of reasoning was it which set in opposition
those two supreme greatnesses? For I must first ask why, if there
are two, there should not be more: because if divinity were capable
of number we should need to believe it the more richly endowed
<the more there were of it>. More generous and more bountiful
was Valentinus, who, as soon as he had the courage to conceive
of two, Depth and Silence, poured out a whole swarm of divinity,
a litter of aeons to the number of thirty, like Aeneas' sow.1 Any
reasoning which precludes the admission of a large number of
supreme greatnesses, also precludes two: for two are many, in
comparison with one: for it is after one that number begins. The
reasoning which could admit two could admit also a great many:
for after two comes a multitude, once unity has been exceeded.
With us indeed the force of this reasoning, by our very definition,
forbids belief in many gods, in that that rule <of faith> which
sets forth one God does not admit of belief in two, since by it
God has to be that to which, as the supremely great, nothing is

5. 1 Valentinus, theorizing on the inner genesis of the godhead, postulated
Depth and Silence as the original pair of aeons, whence proceeded successive
pairs of aeons to the number of thirty, so as to complete the pleroma (the full-
ness) of the godhead: Irenaeus, A.H. I. v-xiv, copied by Tertullian, adv.
Valentinianos.
Aeneas' sow: Virgil, Aen. viii. 43 sqq.


1.6 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 15

considered equal, and that to which nothing is considered equal
must be one and alone. And further, to what advantage, to what
profit, could two supreme greatnesses, two equal entities, be
accounted? What difference does number make, when two equal
things are no different from one thing? For a thing which is
identical in two entities is one single thing. Even if there were more
than two, if they were equal, all of them would amount to no
more than one, in no respect differing among themselves, as
being equal. So then, if of two things neither is distinct from the
other—in that both are supremely great, as both are gods—
neither of them has any advantage over the other, and they
indicate no reason for their plurality, since they have no advan-
tage <one over the other>. But plurality of divinity ought to be
based upon unexceptionable reasoning, if only because the wor-
ship of it could be brought into doubt. For consider: if I saw
before me two gods, equal with each other because both supremely
great, what should I do? If I were to worship both, I should be
concerned lest excess of duty should be accounted superstition
and not religion, because as the two were equal and both were
in either I should have been able to court their favour in one
alone, offering as a testimony to their equality and unity the
very fact that I was worshipping one in the other, because to me
the two are in the one. If <however> I were to worship one and
not the other, I should no less reflect whether I might not seem
to be putting to shame the vanity of a plurality superfluous
through lack of difference. Which means that I should account
it safer to worship neither, than to worship one of them with
doubtfulness or both without good cause.

6. So far, it appears, we have discussed this question as though
it were two equal <gods> that Marcion were setting up. For while
we maintained that God, supremely great, must be considered to
be one alone, shutting off from him any manner of equality, we
treated of these two as though they were equals: yet none the
less, by explaining how according to the principle of supreme
greatness they cannot be equals, we gave sufficient assurance that
there cannot be two. For all that, we were aware that Marcion
sets up unequal gods, the one a judge, fierce and warlike, the
other mild and peaceable, solely kind and supremely good. Let
us no less examine this submission, whether perhaps diversity


1.7 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 17

has room for two, seeing that equality had not. But here also the
same rule about the supremely great will come to our assistance,
seeing it claims for itself the whole content of divinity. So, in
joining issue with an opponent who does not deny that the Creator
is a god, I as it were lay hands upon him. and place his mind under
arrest, as with complete legality I object that there is no room
for such diversity between those whom, as he has admitted them
equal in godhead, he cannot make diverse. Not that it is im-
possible for men, under the same appellation of 'man', to be ex-
ceedingly diverse, but that none may be described as 'god', nor
be believed to be God, except the supremely great. Since then
<Marcion> is compelled to acknowledge the supreme greatness
of him whose godhead he does not deny, we cannot assent to his
ascribing to the supremely great some sort of diminution, by
which it should be put in subjection to another supremely great.
For if made subject, <supreme greatness> ceases to be. But it is
not possible for God to cease from being that which he is, that
is, from being supremely great. And besides, in that other, that
superior god, supreme greatness can come into peril, if it is
capable of being devalued in the Creator. Consequently, when
two gods are pronounced to be two supreme greatnesses, it
follows that neither entity can be greater or less than the other,
neither more sublime or more debased than the other. You have
to deny the godhead of the one you call inferior, as also the
supreme greatness of the one you call less great: yet when you
called both of them gods you professed two supreme greatnesses.
You can neither subtract from the one nor add to the other:
when you acknowledged divinity you denied diversity.

7. You will next try to bring the discussion into disorder by
reference to the word 'god', this being a common noun, appli-
cable to others besides: because it is written, The God of gods
standeth in the congregation of the gods, even in the midst will he discern
between the gods,
and, I have said, ye are gods;a yet those can lay no
claim to supreme greatness just because they are entitled gods:
nor, you say, can the Creator. Even the fool shall have an answer:
he has not bethought himself that perhaps this may no less be
turned back against Marcion's god, in that he too is designated
'god', yet is not thereby proved supremely great, any more than
the Creator's angels were, or his men. If sharing of names has

8268033 C


1.7 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 19

any bearing upon rank, there are large numbers of worthless
slaves who bring discredit on the names of kings, being called
Alexander or Darius or Holophernes: yet this will not degrade
the kings from being what they are. Also the idols of the heathen
are gods to the vulgar, yet none of them is a god simply by having
the name of 'god'. So I, in reference to the Creator, lay claim to
supreme greatness not for the name of a god either spoken or
written, but for that objective reality to which this name is applied.
That objective reality alone do I find unbegotten and uncreated,
alone eternal, the creator of the universe: and I ascribe and re-
strict supreme greatness not to its name but to its quality, not to
its designation but to its attributes. And so, because that reality
to which I ascribe <supreme greatness> already has the name of
'God', you suppose I ascribe it to the name: for I cannot avoid
using the name so as to show to which reality I ascribe it, that
reality of which he consists who has the designation 'God' and
is accounted the supremely great because of that reality and not
because of'the name. Moreover Marcion also, in making this
claim for his own god, makes it with reference to status, not with
reference to a mere word. So then we contend that that supreme
greatness which we ascribe to God by the law of objective reality,
not by the chance of a name, must be of an equality in both of two
who consist of that objective reality because of which the name of
'god' is given: because in as far as they are designated gods, that
is, supreme greatnesses—and this by virtue of an objective reality
unbegotten and eternal, and consequently great and supreme—
in so far is it impossible for one supreme greatness to be accounted
smaller or of less value than another supreme greatness. If the
felicity and sublimity and integrity of supreme greatness is to stand
firm in Marcion's god, no less will it stand firm in ours: if not in
our God, neither will it stand firm in Marcion's. It follows then
that two supreme greatnesses can neither be equal nor unequal:
not equal, because this is disallowed by the rule already estab-
lished that supreme greatness brooks of no equalization: not
unequal, because there comes into opposition that other rule
concerning supreme greatness, which admits of no decrease. You
are stuck, Marcion, in the midst of the swell of your own Pontus:
the floods of the truth keep you in on one side and the other.
You can establish neither equal gods nor unequal: for two there
are not. But this belongs specifically to the discussion of number.


1.9 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 21

Although on the whole subject our contention is about two
gods, we have for the moment confined it between these limits,
between which we have now to debate specific qualities one at
a time.

8. First: the Marcionites build up their stupidity upon conceit,
<proud of> bringing to light a new god—as though we for our
part were ashamed of our old God. Schoolboys are puffed up
about their new slippers, until by their old tutor they get slippered
and beaten for vainglory. So when I am told of a new god, un-
known and unheard of in the old world, in old time, under the
old God: when I hear that in all those past ages he was not, was
ancient only in men's ignorance of him, and that one Jesus Christ,
himself new but under ancient names, has revealed him, as no
one had until now: I am grateful to this glorying of theirs be-
cause by its help in particular I shall without further ado prove
a heresy this profession of a new deity. This will be the sort of
novelty which has brought gods to birth even for the gentiles,
by a new and repeatedly new title of consecration for each one.
All new gods are false gods. Not even Saturn will his ancientness,
great as it today is, prove to be a god, because even he was at
one time brought into being by newness, when it first gave him
consecration. But living and genuine deity is attested neither by
newness nor by oldness, but by its own verity. Eternity has no
time, for itself is the whole of time: it cannot be affected by that
which it causes to be: that which cannot have birth is exempt
from age. If a god is old, he will have to come to an end: if he
is new, he once was not. Newness gives evidence of a beginning:
oldness holds the threat of an ending. But God is as much a
stranger to beginning and ending as he is to time, which is the
judge and divider of the beginning and of the ending.

9. I am aware that in boasting of their god as 'new', they mean
new in men's knowledge of him. But it is precisely this conception
of novelty, in its impact upon simple souls, it is precisely this
natural attractiveness of novelty, that I am determined to resist,
with an immediate challenge in the matter of this god unknown.
Now when they set him against us as new in men's knowledge
of him, they give proof that he was unknown until men knew
him. Come then, straight to the point, dead on the mark: prove


1.9 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 23

to me that a god can ever have been unknown. I know, of course,
of altars prostituted to unknown gods,a though that is Athenian
idolatry: also to gods undefined, though that is Roman super-
stition.1 In fact gods undefined are less than known, because less
than certain, and are unknown precisely because they are less
than certain. Which of these two titles shall we engrave upon
Marcion's god? Both, I think: at present undefined, formerly
unknown. By contrast with the known God, the Creator, he is
unknown: by contrast with the assured God he is undefined. But
it will be no digression when I remark that if a god has been
unknown and in hiding, a realm of darkness has overshadowed
him, a realm itself also new and unknown, and likewise even now
undefined, though assuredly unlimited in extent, and indubitably
greater than he whom it has kept hidden: but I shall briefly state
and fully expound my proposition that by reason of his greatness
<their> god cannot have been unknown, and by reason of his
kindness it was improper that he should be, particularly if in
both these respects he has the advantage of our Creator. But as
I observe that in certain respects one's approbation of any god
now new, though formerly unknown, has to be referred back to
the pattern set by the Creator, I shall first need to explain how
I have valid reason for this procedure: for only so may I with
confidence claim the support of the reason given. First of all, how
does it come about that you, who acknowledge that the Creator
is God, and admit that he is prior in men's knowledge, do not see
that your other god also has to be subject to those same tests by
which you have already learned to recognize divinity?2 Every
previous fact prescribes a norm for that which comes later. We
now have the offer made us of two gods, an unknown one and a
known. Concerning the known, there is no dispute: it is obvious
that he exists, since he could not be known unless he did exist.
Concerning the unknown, there is a pressing question: for it is
possible that he does not even exist, seeing that if he had existed

9. 1 Attic idolatry: Acts 17: 23, Pausanias i. I. 4. Varro classified Roman gods
as certi, incerti, et electi: Tert. adv. Nat. ii. 9. Aulus Gellius, N.A. ii. 28, says that
del incerti were those to whom sacrifices were offered after natural catastrophes,
when the pontifices were uncertain which particular gods had taken offence and
needed to be pacified.

2 Irenaeus, AH. n. viii. i, 'Creation itself brings into evidence him who
created it.'


1.10 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 25

he would have been known. Now as long as that which is under
discussion remains unknown, it continues uncertain so long as
it is under discussion: and so far as there is uncertainty it remains
possible that it does not exist. You have before you one God who
is certain, because known, and another uncertain, because un-
known. That being so, must you not admit that I have sound
reason for my claim that things uncertain need to be tested accord-
ing to that norm and pattern and rule which applies to things
certain? If not, if to your plea, itself still uncertain, there are
added further arguments from uncertainties, we shall have a
tangled sequence of questions dependent on the discussion of
arguments themselves equally uncertain, questions hazardous of
belief through uncertainty: and we shall run into those intermin-
able discussions of which the apostle disapproves.b But if the rules
concerning themes certain and indubitable and unquestioned are
to set the precedent for those uncertain and doubtful and un-
explained—I admit that where there is found to be diversity of
status, <or character>, perhaps things uncertain will not be re-
ferred back to the pattern of things certain, because by reason of
the diversity of their primary status they will be exempt from any
further challenge to comparison.—But when the proposition is
of two gods, that primary status <or character> is common to
both: for both of them are what a god is, unbegotten, uncreated,
eternal. This must be their primary status. The other attributes
Marcion may arrange in diversity if he likes: for these come later
in the discussion, or in fact will not be allowed into the discussion
if there is agreement concerning that primary status. And in
effect, there is agreement, for both are gods: and as there is agree-
ment concerning that status that they have it in common, when
under it <other attributes> are cited for testing, if they are un-
certain they will have to be referred back to the pattern of those
which are certain, those with which they are assessed as sharing
that primary status, that they may accordingly be partners in
the testing. After this then I shall firmly insist that that is no
god who today is uncertain because he was formerly unknown:
because as soon as it is agreed that he exists, it ipso facto follows
that he never has been unknown, and therefore was never un-
certain.

10. For the fact is that ever since things have existed their Creator


1.11 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 27

has become known along with them: for they were brought into
being with the intent that God might be made known. Admittedly
it is somewhat later that Moses before others is seen to have
established the God of the world in the temple of his writings:1
but we need not on that account reckon that the knowledge of
him was born along with the Pentateuch, for Moses' writings as
a whole do not initiate knowledge of the Creator, but rather
describe it from the beginning, so that its age must be counted
from Paradise and from Adam, not from Egypt and Moses. And
again, the great majority of the human race, though ignorant
even of Moses' name, not to mention his written works, do for all
that know Moses' God. In spite of the darkness of idolatry, and
its wide dominion, men do distinguish him by the name of God,
as though this were a proper noun—'God of gods', and 'If God
grant it', and 'What God will', and 'I commit to God'. Evidently
they know him, for they testify that he can do all things: and this
they owe not to any books of Moses, for <man's> soul was there
before prophecy.2 The knowledge inherent in the soul since the
beginning is God's endowment, the same and no other whether in
Egyptians or Syrians or men of Pontus. It is the God of the Jews
whom men's souls call God. Abstain, barbarian and heretic, from
setting up Abraham as older than the world. Even if God had
been the creator of one family and no more, he was not of later
origin than your god: even the men of Pontus knew him before
they knew of yours. Accept then the pattern set by him who
existed before you: if uncertain, accept from the certain: if un-
known, accept from the well-known. God can never keep himself
hidden, can never be unattainable: he must at all times be under-
stood, be heard, even be seen, in such manner as he will. God has
his evidences, all this that we are, and in which we are. Such is
the proof that he is God, is the one God, this fact that he is not un-
known, while that other one is even yet struggling after recognition.

11. 'And so he ought to be', they reply: 'any man is better known

10. 1 On the pagan suggestion advanced by Celsus, that Moses was the first
to introduce monotheism into a naturally polytheistic world, cf. Origen, c.
Celsum
i. 31—4.

2 It is a standing principle with Tertullian that the human soul is naturally
Christian and never ceases to be capable of apprehending divine truth: Apol.
17. 6, 'o testimonium animae naturaliter Christianae', the treatises de Testi-
monio Animae, de Came Christi 12, de Res. Carn.
3.


1.11 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 29

to his own than to aliens.' I admit that: I insist on it. For how
can there be anything alien to God, when any god there were
could have nothing alien to him? For it is characteristic of God
that all things are his, and all things his concern. If they were not,
we should at once object, 'What then has he to do with things
alien to him?' But we shall deal with this more fully in its own
context. For the moment it is enough that one is proved to be
nobody if nothing is proved to belong to him. For just as the
Creator is God, and God beyond all doubt, for the reason that all
things are his and that nothing is alien to him, so also any other
is not a god, precisely because all things are not his, and there-
fore are alien to him. In fact, if the whole universe belongs to the
Creator, I see no room at all for a second god: all things are fully
occupied by their own begetter. If there is among created things
any empty space for some divinity, evidently it must be empty
for a false divinity. The truth is made manifest by the lie.
All that great multitude of false gods ought somewhere to have
found room for Marcion's god. This too I postulate after the
pattern set by the Creator, that <this other one> ought to have
been recognizable as a god by reason of his creation of some world
and man and time of his own: for even this world's wrong-
headedness has made into gods those who it acknowledges were
once men, precisely because it appears that by each of them some
provision has been made for life's utilities and pleasures.1 Thus
then it was from the precedent God set, that there arose the
belief that it is a divine function to invent or discover something
suitable and essential for human life. In this way even false
divinity has borrowed proof of its existence from that which was
already the proof of true divinity. One solitary little chick-pea of
his own ought Marcion's god to have brought to light, and he
might then have been proclaimed a sort of new Triptolemus.2
Else you have to propound some reason, a reason worthy of a
god, why, if he exists, he has done no creating: because he would
have created something, if he had existed, by our previous ruling,

11. 1 This was the rationalist theory of paganism advanced by Euhemerus
(about 300 B.C.), that the gods were men promoted to divinity in recognition
of their benefits to mankind: Diodorus Siculus, fragments of Bk. VI; Cicero,
de Nat. Deor. i. 42. 119.

2 A hero, worshipped at Eleusis, who had been sent by Demeter to teach men
agriculture (Ovid, Metam. v. 645 sqq.).


1.11 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 31

of course, that it is only because he has created all this that our
own God's existence is clearly seen. For the established rule must
be upheld, that these people are not allowed, while admitting
that the Creator is God, to omit to prove the godhead of that
other—whom they no less wish to have regarded as a god—
conformably to the pattern set by that one whom they and all
men recognize as God. And so it follows that just as no one doubts
that the Creator is God—for he has created all this—so no one
has the right to believe the godhead of that other, who has created
nothing: unless perchance some reason is alleged. And that reason
has to have a double bearing—either that he had no wish to
create anything, or that he had no power: there is no third
possibility. But to have no power is unworthy of a god. To have
had no wish—whether this was worthy, I proceed to discuss.
Tell me, Marcion, was it, or was it not, your god's wish ever to
become known at any time? Was it with any other intent that he
came down, and taught, and suffered, and rose again, except that
he might become known?3 Certainly, if he did become known,
he was willing: for nothing could have been done with respect
to him unless he had been willing. Why was he so intent upon
providing evidence of himself by being put on display in the
dishonour of flesh—a dishonour even greater if that flesh was no
true flesh? For it adds to the disgrace if he made the substance
of his body into a lie—and he even took upon himself the Creator's
curse by being hung from a tree. How much more reputably could
he have contrived beforehand for men to have knowledge of him
by some evidences of his own craftsmanship, especially as he
needed to become known in opposition to that one to whom since
the beginning he had remained unknown because he had done
nothing! For it is quite incredible that the Creator, ignorant, as
the Marcionites allege, that there was another god above him,
and affirming even with an oath that he himself was the only
God, should have equipped the knowledge of himself with all these
great works—knowledge which, on the assumption of his singu-
larity he had no need to make this kind of provision for—yet
that that more sublime god, knowing that the inferior God was
so endowed, should have provided no handiwork to ensure his
own recognition. Really it would have been his duty to create
even more significant, even more impressive, works, so that


11. 3 See above, p. xiii.


1.13 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 33

through works he might be recognized as a god, like the Creator,
and through more honourable works be seen to be more eminent
and more noble than the Creator.

12. Otherwise, even though we were able to acknowledge his
existence, we should still have to argue that he existed to no pur-
pose. For to no purpose would one exist who had no possessions:
for any possession is an argument for the existence of someone
whose possession it is. Yet inasmuch as nothing has the right to
exist without a purpose—because its existing without a purpose
would be tantamount to its not existing, seeing it would not have
any possession as the purpose of its existence—I shall with greater
propriety believe that a god does not exist than that he exists
without a purpose: for one exists without purpose who by having
no possessions has no purpose: and a god without a purpose, that
is, without any possession, has no right to exist. So then, as often
as, assuming his existence, I show that he exists without purpose,
I thereby establish that he does not exist, because if he had
existed he would assuredly not have existed without a purpose.
So also I add that it is without purpose that such a one solicits
even faith from mankind—for these have the different practice
of believing that God's character is made known to them on the
authority of his works—since he has made no provision of the
sort by which man has in the past learned of God. For although a
number of people believe in that one, they have no obvious reason
for their belief, for they have no token or assurance of a god, no
works of his worthy of a god. Consequently, on this reckoning of
the deferment or absence of any works of his, he is very close to
effrontery or malignity—the effrontery by which he solicits a
faith he has no claim to and in preparation for which he has
made no provision, and the malignity by which he has made
large numbers guilty of unbelief by affording no reason for their
faith.

13. When we depose from this rank a god of whom no previous
evidence has been given by any creation of his own as worthy of
a god as the Creator's is, the Marcionites shamelessly turn up
their nose and set about the demolition of the Creator's works.
'A great work, indeed,' they say, 'and worthy of a god, is this
world.' Is then the Creator in no sense a god? Clearly he is a god.

8268033 D


1.13 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 35

Consequently the world is not unworthy of a god. For God has
made nothing which is unworthy of himself, even though he has
made the world not for himself but for man, and even though
every work is inferior to the artificer who made it. And besides,
if it is unworthy of God to have made such and such a thing,
much more unworthy is it of your god, to have made nothing at
all, not even an unworthy thing—for then there could even have
been hope of his becoming the originator of things more worthy.
So let me make some observations even on the alleged unworthi-
ness of this world, the name of which among the Greeks also means
adornment and culture, not uncleanness. Its unworthy constitu-
ents have been declared to be gods by those very professors of
philosophy from whose clever theories every heresy takes its life—
as water by Thales, fire by Heraclitus, air by Anaximenes, by
Anaximander all the heavenly bodies combined, by Strato heaven
and earth, by Zeno the air and the aether, and by Plato the
constellations, which he describes as the fiery race of the gods1
this in his treatise Concerning the World, where he has under con-
sideration its greatness and power, its majesty and dignity and
beauty, its riches, its security, and the law of its several elements,
which conspire together to effect the birth, nurture, confection,
and refection of the whole: so that a number of the natural philo-
sophers have been reluctant to think that the world has a begin-
ning and an end, for fear lest its constituents, which are so great,
should have doubt cast upon their deity: for these constituents
are worshipped both by Persian mages and by Egyptian hiero-
phants and Indian gymnosophists. Moreover the vulgar super-
stition of popular idolatry, when ashamed of itself among the
images which record the names and stories of men long dead,
takes refuge in a physical interpretation, veils its dishonour in
ingenuity, and represents Jupiter as the boiling substance and his
Juno as the air—following the sound of the Greek words—also
Vesta as fire, the Muses as the waters, and the Great Mother as
the earth with its genitals cropped, its members ploughed, itself
irrigated by lustrations. So also Osiris: that he is for ever being
buried, and sought for in the waters, and recovered with rejoicing,
they argue is a promise of the return of the seed sown, of the lively
elements, and of the reviving year: as also they have a theory
that the lions of Mithras are figurative indications of the dry and


13. 1 Cf. Plato, Timaeus 39 e-40 d.


1.14 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 37

fiery nature. It suits me well that substances higher in position and
rank have more easily been taken for gods than thought un-
worthy of God. Shall I be at a loss with lowly things? Can one
little flower of the hedgerow—I say not the meadows—, one little
shell from any sea you like—I say not the Red Sea—, one little
moorcock's feather—I say nothing of the peacock—, permit you
to judge the Creator a low-grade artificer?

14. Since you put to scorn those tiny animals which the great
Artificer has designedly made great in competence and ability,
so teaching us that greatness approves itself in littleness, even as,
the apostle says, strength does in weakness:a imitate, if you can,
the bee's house-building, the ant's stablings, the spider's net-
work, the silkworm's spinning: tolerate, if you can, even those
creatures in your bed and on your bed-cover, the poison of the
cantharis, the midge's sting, the mosquito's trumpet and spear.
How great must the greater things be, when by things so little
you are so gratified or distressed that not even in those little
things can you despise their Creator. Finally, display yourself to
yourself: look at man, within and without. At least this work of
our God will obtain your approval, a work upon which your lord,
your superior god, has set his affection, man for whose benefit he
took the trouble himself to come down from the third heaven
into these beggarly elements, man for whose sake in this the
Creator's prison-house he was even crucified. He certainly has
not even yet rejected the Creator's water, for in it he washes his
own: nor the oil with which he anoints them, nor the compound
of milk and honey on which he weans them, nor the Creator's
bread by which he makes manifest his own body. Even in his
own rites and ceremonies he cannot do without things begged
and borrowed from the Creator. Yet you, a disciple above your
master, a servant above your lord, have higher thoughts than he,
casting aside things which he feels the need of. I am disposed to
inquire whether you are perhaps sincere in this, or if you do not
yourself hanker after the things you reject. You are hostile to the
sky: yet in your houses you plan for a free view of the sky. You
despise the earth, from which was born that flesh of yours which
you hate: yet you forcibly extract all its richness for you to feed
on. You disapprove of the sea, yet stop short of its contents, which
you account a holier kind of food. If I offer you a rose, you cannot


1.15 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 39

despise its Creator. Hypocrite: even though by starving yourself
to death you should approve yourself a Marcionite, which means,
a repudiator of the Creator—for you ought to have made some
pretence of this, as a substitute for martyrdom, if you had really
disapproved of the world—into whatsoever material you are to
be dissolved, you will be making use of the Creator's possessions.
How perverse is this austerity. You despise as worthless those very
things on which your life and death depend.

15. After this, or even before this, since you have said that your
god no less has his own creation, his own world and his own
heaven, I shall consider that third heaven when, or if, I come
to discuss the apostle you claim as your own. Meanwhile, what-
ever possessions your god has, ought to have come into view at
the same time as the god whose they are. Yet how is it that their
owner has been in evidence since the fifteenth year of Tiberius
Caesar, but of his possessions right down to this fifteenth year of
the emperor Sever us there is no indication whatsoever?1 Yet as
these are far and away superior to the Creator's trivialities, their
concealment ought to have come to an end as soon as ever their
maker and owner ceased to remain hidden. So if there was no
possibility of their being brought to light in this world, how has
their owner managed to be visible in this world? If this world
had room for the owner, why could it not have room for his
possessions, unless perhaps these were greater than their owner?
So next there arises the question of space, which touches both
that superior world, and him the god of it. For if he too has
a world of his own, beneath himself, but above the Creator, he
must surely have made it in that region where there was a vacant
space between his own feet and the Creator's head. So then the
god himself was in space, and was making a world in space, and
that space will need to have been more extensive than the god
and his world.2 For on no consideration can that which contains
fail to be more extensive than that which is contained. And so
we have to look if there are not still left there some odd bits into
which a third god can pack himself, along with a world also his
own. Now begin counting up the gods. For space also has to be
a god, not only as being larger than the god, but as being

15. 1 The fifteenth year of Tiberius, A.D. 29; of Severus, A.D. 208.
2 The argument here is condensed from Irenaeus, AH. II. i. 2.


1.16 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 41

unbegotten and uncreated, and on that account eternal, and coeval
with the god, seeing that the god has always been within it. And
next, if he too has constructed his world of some subjacent material,
unbegotten and uncreated, and co-temporal with the god—
which is Marcion's view of the Creator3—you must add this also
to the majesty of that space, that it encloses two gods, the god
and the material: for the material too is a god, being, as is
characteristic of divinity, unbegotten, uncreated, and eternal.
Else, if <this god> has created his world out of nothing, <Marcion>
will be forced to take the same view of the Creator, though for him
he provides material at the establishment of the world. But that
one too will need to have made his world out of material: for
the same reasoning as was set up against the Creator applies to
that god as well, if he is a god no less. Meanwhile you can count
me three gods of Marcion's, the maker, the space, and the material.
Likewise the Creator too he sets in space—and this of course has
to be given the same characteristics—and provides him, its
Owner, with material obviously unbegotten and uncreated and
on that reckoning eternal. And further, since he imputes evil to
the material, evil unbegotten, uncreated, and eternal, to material
unbegotten, uncreated, and eternal, he has now set up a fourth
god. And so you have in the higher regions three divine existences,
and in the lower regions four. When to these are added their
own Christs, one who has appeared under Tiberius, another
promised by the Creator, Marcion is evidently being robbed of
something by those who suppose him to postulate two gods, for,
although unaware of it, he makes them out to be nine.

16. Since there is no visible evidence of another world, as there
is none of any god of it, their next procedure is to share out two
species of objects, things visible and things invisible, between two
gods as authors, and then claim the invisible things for their
god. But can anyone, unless it be a spirit of heresy, persuade him-
self that the invisible things belong to one who has made no
provision of anything visible, rather than to him who by fabricating
visible things has given evidence of invisible things besides? For
it is much more reasonable to assent to evidences of some sort
than to none at all. I shall find out also to which author the
apostle ascribes the invisible things,a when I come to investigate


15. 3 See above, p. xi.


1.17 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 43

him. At present I am by means of general impressions for the most
part, and logical inductions, preparing credit for the advocacy
of the scriptures which is to follow. So I affirm that this diversity
of things visible and invisible is to be attributed to the Creator,
precisely as every operation of his consists of diversities, of corporal
and incorporal, of animate and inanimate, of vocal and silent,
of mobile and static, of reproductive and sterile, of dry and wet,
of hot and cold. So also man himself is compounded of diversity,
in body no less than disposition. Some of his members are strong,
some weak: some are honourable, others dishonourable: some
double, others single: some equal, others unequal. Likewise in
his disposition, sometimes there is gladness, sometimes anxiety:
sometimes love, sometimes hate: sometimes passion, sometimes
calm. If this is the case, that this universe is in balance between
opposing attributes,1 it at once follows that things visible stand in
need of things invisible, and that these must be ascribed to the
very same author as their opposites, while they indicate that even
the Creator differs <from himself>, commanding what he has
forbidden and forbidding what he has commanded, smiting and
healing. Why is it that in this single sphere these people would
have him consistent, the creator of visible things only, though we
have good cause to believe that he has made both visible things
and things invisible, precisely as he has made both life and death,
both evil things and peace? And truly, if those invisible things
are greater than the visible created things, these themselves great
in their own sphere, on this reckoning too it is right and proper
that the greater things belong to him whose are the great things—
because not even the great things, not to mention the greater, can
be the property of one who gives no evidence of possessing even
things that are small.

17. Hemmed in by these arguments, they break out and say,
'Sufficient to our god is this one single work, that he has by his
great and particular kindness set man free, a kindness of more
value than any number of destructive insects.' Note the superior
greatness of this god, whose great work could only come into
evidence in that man who belonged to a lesser God. However,
it is your previous duty to prove that he exists, and to do so by

16. 1 Cf. II. 12 below; Irenaeus A.H. II. xxv. 2; Seneca, Nat. qu. vii. 27; Philo,
Qu. Gen. ii. 55.


1.18 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 45

the proofs requisite to prove a god's existence, by works first, and
afterwards by benefits conferred. For the first question is whether
he is, and only then of what his character is. The first question
will be settled by works, the other by benefits. Now his existence
is not established by the allegation that he has set man free.
When his existence has been established, then the statement may
be made that he has set free, so that then decision may be taken
whether he has set free: because it was indeed possible for him to
have existed, yet not to have set free. How then, on the ground
that he is stated to have set free, can one also believe his existence,
when he could have existed and not have set free? Now on this
subsidiary point arising from the question concerning the god
unknown, it became evident not only that he had not instituted
anything, but also that he ought to have instituted something,
that so he might have become known from his works: because if
he had existed it would have been his duty to become known,
even from the very beginning of things, since it was not seemly
that a god should remain in hiding. So I must turn back again
to the fountain-head of this question concerning the god un-
known, for so I shall be able also to shake out the rest of its
branches. For in the case of one who has lately brought himself
into notice, our first question will need to be, why lately, and
why not since the beginning of things ? For of necessity, being
a god, and of greater necessity, being a better god, he had no
right to remain hidden from these things. You cannot allege that
there was neither occasion nor reason for them to know <this>
god, when man, to whose rescue he has now come, was in the
world from the beginning, as also was the malice of the Creator,1
against which in his kindness he has now come to the rescue. So
then either he was ignorant that there was cause and occasion
which made revelation of himself necessary, or else he was hesitant,
or incapable, or unwilling. All these are unworthy of a god,
especially of a supremely good one. But this topic I shall pursue
further in another place, with a criticism of this belated revela-
tion: here I merely draw attention to it.

18. Well then, suppose him to have emerged into notice when

17. 1 Here and elsewhere Tertullian takes up an expression used by his oppo-
nents, not because he accepts it, but because the mere statement of it is its
best condemnation and provides also a starting-point for argument.


1.18 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 47

he decided to, when he became able to, when the destined hour
arrived. For perhaps the Ascendant1 was against him, or possibly
some witchery, or Saturn in quadrature, or Mars at sixty degrees.
Marcionites are very generally astrologers, and have no shame
even of this, that they direct their lives by the Creator's stars.
At this point we have to discuss the propriety or otherwise of
that revelation, asking whether he became known in a manner
creditable to himself. Only so shall we decide whether he has
really become known, when we are assured he was revealed in
a creditable manner. Only acts creditable to a god can prove
him a god. For my part I postulate that a god ought first to be
known by nature, and afterwards further known by doctrine—
by nature through his works, by doctrine through official teach-
ing. He however who has no natural possessions has at his disposal
no natural credentials. For that reason he ought at least to have
contrived a revelation of himself by official teaching, especially
as he was to be revealed in opposition to a God who in spite of
his works of creation and of official teaching, many and great
as these were, had with difficulty satisfied man's faith. In what
manner then has he been revealed? If <you suggest> by human
surmisings, I answer that a god cannot become known except
on his own showing, and I appeal not only to the method em-
ployed by the Creator, but also to the conditions imposed as well
by divine greatness as by human insignificance. Otherwise the
man might appear greater than the god, for he would, without the
god previously consenting to be known, have as it were by his
own power dragged him out into the publicity of being known—
though human insignificance has, by the trial and error of all
the ages, found it easier to invent gods for itself than to attend
upon the true God, of whom they are already aware by nature.
For the rest, if a man is to fabricate a god, as Romulus did Con-
sus, or Tatius Cloacina, or Hostilius Terror, or Metellus Mount
Alburnus, or a certain person2 not long ago Antinous, are others
to have licence for this? Marcion we know for a ship-master, not
a king or an emperor.

18. 1 The point at which the moon, passing northwards, crosses the ecliptic:
a person born at that juncture was, it was alleged, destined to be advanced to
high office or dignity.

2 The emperor Hadrian, who acquiesced in the Egyptian Greeks' deification
of the boy Antinous, drowned in the Nile.


1.19 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 49

19. 'Yes, but our god,' the Marcionites rejoin, 'though not re-
vealed from the beginning, or by virtue of any creation, yet has
by his own self been revealed in Christ Jesus.' One of my books1
will have reference to Christ and all that he stands for: for the
divisions of our subject have to be kept distinct, so as to receive
more complete and orderly treatment. For the time it must suffice
to follow up bur present argument so far as to prove, and that in
few words, that Christ Jesus is the representative of no other god
than the Creator. 'In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar Christ
Jesus vouchsafed to glide down from heaven, a salutary spirit.'
In what year of the elder Antoninus the pestilential breeze2 of
Marcion's salvation, whose opinion this was, breathed out from
his own Pontus, I have forborne to inquire. But of this I am sure,
that he is an Antoninian heretic, impious under Pius. Now from
Tiberius to Antoninus there are a matter of a hundred and fifteen
and a half years and half a month. This length of time do they
posit between Christ and Marcion. Since therefore it was under
Antoninus that, as I have proved, Marcion first brought this god
on the scene, at once, if you are in your senses, the fact is clear.
The dates themselves put it beyond argument that that which
first came to light under Antoninus did not come to light under
Tiberius: that is, that the god of Antoninus' reign was not the
God of the reign of Tiberius, and therefore he who it is admitted
was first reported to exist by Marcion, had not been revealed
by Christ. To prove next that this is a fact, I shall take up the
rest <of my argument> from my opponents themselves. The separa-
tion of Law and Gospel is the primary and principal exploit of
Marcion. His disciples cannot deny this, which stands at the head
of their document, that document by which they are inducted,
into and confirmed in this heresy. For such are Marcion's Anti-
theses,
or Contrary Oppositions, which are designed to show the
conflict and disagreement of the Gospel and the Law, so that
from the diversity of principles between those two documents
they may argue further for a diversity of gods. Therefore, as
it is precisely this separation of Law and Gospel which has sug-
gested a god of the Gospel, other than and in opposition to the
God of the Law, it is evident that before that separation was made,

19. 1 Book III, below.

2 Aura canicularis, of the pest-laden weather at the rising of the Dog-star,
but with reference also to Sinope, and to Diogenes the Cynic.


8268038 E


1.20 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 51

<that> god was still unknown who has just come into notice in
consequence of the argument for separation: and so he was not
revealed by Christ, who came before the separation, but was
invented by Marcion, who set up the separation in opposition
to that peace between Gospel and Law which previously, from
the appearance of Christ until the impudence of Marcion, had
been kept unimpaired and unshaken by virtue of that <sound>
reasoning which refused to contemplate any other god of the
Law and the Gospel than that Creator against whom after so
long a time, by a man of Pontus, separation has been let loose.

20. This short and sharp argument calls for justification on our
part against the clatter and clamour of the opposite party. They
allege that in separating the Law and the Gospel Marcion did
not so much invent a new rule <of faith> as refurbish a rule
previously debased. So then Christ, our most patient Lord, has
through all these years borne with a perversion of the preaching
about himself, until, if you please, Marcion should come to his
rescue. They object that Peter and those others, pillars of the
apostleship, were reproved by Paul for not walking uprightly
according to the truth of the gospela—by that Paul, you under-
stand, who, yet inexperienced in grace, and anxious lest he had
run or was running in vain, was then for the first time conferring
with those who were apostles before him. So then if, as still a
neophyte, in his zeal against Judaism he thought something in
their conduct called for reproof, their indiscriminate associations
in fact,1 though he himself was afterwards to become in practice
all things to all men—to the Jews as a Jew, to those under the
law as himself under the lawb—do you allege that that reproof,
concerning conduct and nothing more, conduct which its critic
was afterwards to approve of, must be supposed to refer to some
deviation in their preaching concerning God? On the contrary,
in respect of the unity of their preaching, as we have read earlier
in this epistle, they had joined their right hands,c and by the very
act of having divided their spheres of work had signified their
agreement in the fellowship of the gospel: as he says in another
place, Whether it were I or they, so we preach.2,d Also, although he

20. 1 There is an oversight here. The apostle's complaint against his Galatian
opponents was that they discountenanced indiscriminate associations.

2 On I Cor. 15:11 Irenaeus, A.H. III. xiii. i, affirms the agreement of all those
who saw the Lord after his resurrection: so also A.H. III. v. 1—3 and xiii. 6 sqq.


1.21 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 53

writes of how certain false brethren had crept in unawares,
desiring to remove the Galatians to another gospel,e he himself
shows clearly that that adulteration of the gospel was not con-
cerned with diversion of the faith towards another god and another
Christ, but with adherence to the regulations of the law. In fact
he found them insisting on circumcision, and observing the sea-
sons and days and months and years of those Jewish solemnities
which they ought to have known were now revoked in accordance
with the reforming ordinance of that Creator who had of old
taught of this very thing by his prophets: as for example by Isaiah,
The old things are passed away, and behold they are new things which I
now make:f
and in another place, And I will ordain a covenant, not
such as I ordained for your fathers when I had brought them out from the
land of Egypt:g
so also by Jeremiah, Renew for yourselves a new
fallow, and be circumcised for your God, and be circumcised in the
foreskins of your heart.h
So then, in commending this sort of
circumcision and this sort of fallow, the apostle was expressing
disapproval of those antiquated solemnities: for that these would
sometime cease, God himself who had established them was on
record as declaring, through Hosea, And I will turn aside all her
mirth, her feast days, and her new moons and sabbaths, and all her
solemnities.i
So also by Isaiah, Tour new moons and sabbaths, and
the great day, I cannot abide: your appointed days and your fasting, and
your feast days, my soul hateth.j
Now if even their Creator had long
ago rejected all these, and the apostle's pronouncement was that
they must now be rejected, evidently the fact that the apostle's
judgement is in agreement with the Creator's decrees, proves that
no other god was the subject of the apostle's preaching, but only
he whose decrees the apostle was anxious should now be acknow-
ledged, while in this behalf he stigmatized as false apostles and
false brethren such as should divert the Gospel of the Creator's
Christ from the newness which the Creator had foretold, to the
oldness which the Creator had rejected.

21. Now if it was as the preacher of a new god that he desired
to revoke the law of the old God, why does he give no instructions
regarding that new god, but only about the old law? It must
have been that while faith in the Creator stood firm, his law, and
that alone, had to give way. To this effect that psalm also had
already spoken: Let us break their bonds asunder from us, and cast


1.21 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 55

away from us their yoke, ever since, in fact, The heathen raged and the
peoples imagined vain things, the kings of the earth stood by and the
rulers came together into one, against the Lord and against his Christ.a
And indeed if it had been another god that Paul was preaching,
there could have been no controversy about keeping the law or
not keeping it, for the law would have been of no concern to
a new lord, one hostile to the law: the god's very newness and
diversity would have excluded not merely the discussion of that
old law, which was not his but another's, but even the slightest
reference to it. Rather the whole essence of the discussion was that
while the same God, the God of the law, was being preached in
Christ, his law was under criticism: and consequently, while faith
in the Creator and his Christ stood for ever firm, conduct and
discipline were in doubt. For there were some who disputed about
eating things offered to idols, others about the veiling of women,
others about marriage and divorce, and a few even about the
hope of the resurrection: about God, not a one. For if that
question also had been in dispute, it too would be in evidence
in the apostle's writings, the more so as that on which the other
things depend. But if it was after the apostolic age that the truth
suffered adulteration as regards the rule of <faith in> God,1 it
follows that in its own time the apostolic tradition suffered no
adulteration as regards God's rule of faith, and we shall be called
upon to recognize as apostolic no other tradition than that which
is today set forth in the apostolic churches. But you will find no
church of apostolic origin whose Christianity repudiates the
Creator. Or else, if these churches are taken to have been corrupt
from the beginning, can any churches be sound? Shall they be
those hostile to the Creator? Put in evidence a single one of your
churches which is of apostolic origin, and you will have me con-
vinced. Since then it is on all accounts certain that from Christ right
down to Marcion no other god than the Creator was included
in the statement of this mystery, this gives all necessary protec-
tion to my statement of case, by which I prove that the very idea
of that heretical god originated with this separation between the

21. 1 On the Rule of the Faith, Tertullian, de Praesc. Haeret. 13, de Virg. Vel. 1,
ado. Prax.
2; Irenaeus, A.H. I. ii: Origen de Princ. I, praef. 4 sqq. The argument
from prescription, as here advanced, was based on the legal principle that prior
possession, unchallenged over a period of time, amounted to proof of legal
right.


1.22 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 57

gospel and the law; while there is support for my previous postu-
late that we may not accept as a god one whom a man has
constructed out of his own mind—unless of course he is a prophet,2
and then it would not be of his own mind. Whether Marcion can
be so called—well, proof of this will be required. There was no
call for discussion: the truth, like a wedge, thrusts out every
heresy, while Christ is set forth as the representative of no other
god than the Creator.

22. But antichrist cannot be utterly overthrown unless we make
room for the refutation of the rest of his submissions, by relaxing
our argument from prescription.1 Let us then at this point con-
sider, in terms of his Christ, the actual person, or rather the
shadow and phantom, of that god,2 and let us make an evaluation
of him in terms of that for which he is thought an improvement
on the Creator. Now there have to be definite rules for evaluating
the goodness of a god: though I shall first need to find and lay
hold upon that goodness, for then only can I adjust it to the rules.
Now when I take a historical view, ever since the beginning of
material existences, ever since the first emergence of those causes
along with which it ought to have been in evidence, <this good-
ness> nowhere appears in continuous action from thence forward,
as there was need for it to function. For there was already death,
and sin which is the sting of death, and that malice of the Creator
against which the goodness of that other god had the duty of
coming to the rescue, so as to conform to this primary rule of
divine goodness—if it was to prove itself a natural goodness—
by at once hastening to help as soon as need arose. For in a god
all attributes are of necessity natural and ingenerate,3 or else they
will not be eternal as his own estate requires: or they will have
to be accounted adventitious and external, and therefore temporal
and alien to eternity. So then in a god we shall expect goodness to be
perennial and ever-flowing, such as, being stored up in readiness
within the treasuries of his natural attributes, should anticipate

21. 2 See above, p. xviii.

22. 1 See Ch. 21, n. 1.           2 See above, p. xiii.
3 Attributes natural and ingenerate, specified in this and the following
chapters, are those which it is inconceivable that God should not possess.
Strictly speaking 'natural' and 'ingenerate' are human terms: they are applied
to that which is divine, only with the safeguard that since we must use some
terms we are careful to employ the best that are available.


1.22 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 59

the causes and circumstances of its own action, and, because
of that anticipation, should neither overlook nor neglect them,
but take each one in hand as it arose. In fact my question here
again will be, why his goodness has not been in operation from
the beginning, just as my question concerning himself was, why
from the beginning he has not been revealed. For evidently, if
such a one had existed, he could not have escaped being revealed
by his goodness. It is not permissible for a god to be incompetent
of anything—especially of putting his natural attributes into
operation: for if these are under restraint, so as to have no free
course, they cannot be natural. Nature can take no vacation from
itself. Its existence is contemporaneous with its activity: and so he
cannot be supposed, with nature for his excuse, to have been
unwilling for a time to exercise his goodness. Nature cannot
repudiate itself: its conduct of itself is such that if it refrains from
action it ceases to be. Now in Marcion's god goodness did at one
time refrain from working. Consequently that was no natural
goodness, which was able for a time to be under restraint: for
with natural attributes this is impossible. And if it cannot be
natural, it cannot of course be supposed eternal, nor coeval with
the god, because not eternal: and it is not natural, since in fact
it gives no indication of any perpetuity of itself in the past, or
promise of it in the future. It has not existed from the beginning,
and certainly will not exist until the end: for as at one time it was
not, so it can at some time cease to be. As then it is admitted that
at the beginning the goodness of that god was under restraint—
for not at the beginning did he set man free—and that the re-
straint was due to his will and not to his incapacity, well then,
this determination to place goodness under restraint must be
found to be the extremity of malice. For is there anything so
malicious as to refuse to do good when you have the power, to
put usefulness on the rack, to allow wrong to continue? Thus the
whole indictment they bring against the Creator4 has to be trans-
ferred to the account of that one who, by this check on his own
goodness, has become a party to the other's savageries. One in
whose power it is to prevent a thing happening is held to blame
for it when it does happen. Man is condemned to death for picking

22. 4 Tertullian here turns back against Marcion's god the criticisms which
Marcion makes of the Creator: similarly Irenaeus, A.H. II. iv. 1 sqq., makes the
Valentinian attack upon creation recoil on iniquities within the pleroma.


1.23 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 61

from one paltry tree, and out of that proceed sins with their
penalties, and now people who have not known so much as one
single sod of Paradise are all of them perishing: and a better god,
if you please, is either unaware of this or puts up with it. If his
intention was that out of this he himself might obtain a better
repute the worse the Creator was supposed to be, even in this
device he has displayed no little malice, in having tolerated the
Creator's activities and kept the world in distress because he de-
sired the Creator to be held to blame. What would your opinion
be of a physician who by delaying treatment should strengthen
the disease, and by deferring remedy should prolong the danger, so
that his services might command a larger fee and enhance his own
repute ? The same judgement will have to be pronounced upon Mar-
cion's god, for permitting evil, favouring wrong, currying favour,
offending against that kindness which he did not immediately exer-
cise when cause arose. Evidently he would have exercised it if kind
by nature and not by afterthought, if good by character and not
by rule and regulation, if god since eternity and not since Tiberius,
or rather—to speak more truly—since Cerdo and Marcion. As
things are, your god will have given Tiberius this to his credit, that
in his reign divine goodness was first established upon earth.

23. Another rule I bring into action against him, that in a god
all <attributes and activities> ought to be no less rational than
natural. I demand reason in his goodness, because nothing ought
to be accounted good which is not rationally good: far less should
goodness itself be found irrational. It will be easier for evil,
vouched for by some manner of reason, to be mistaken for good, than
for good abandoned by reason to escape condemnation as evil. I
submit that the goodness of Marcion's god is not rational, on this
account first, that it has brought itself into action for the salvation of
man, who belonged to someone else.1 I know they will object that
primary and perfect goodness is precisely this, when without any
obligation of kinship it is willingly and liberally expended upon
strangers;1 just as we are ordered to love even our enemies, in
which reckoning strangers are included. When then he did not
from the beginning have regard for man, who from the beginning

23. 1 Hominis alieni: in extraneos. These are Marcion's words, almost technical
terms of the Marcionite theology, expressing his adherents' sense of alienation
from the world.


1.23 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 63

was a stranger, by this delay he established the principle that
with the stranger he has no concern. Now the rule about loving
the stranger or the enemy comes after that command to love
your neighbour as yourself, which, though taken from the Creator's
law, you also will have to adopt, since by Christ it has not been
overthrown but more firmly established.a To cause you to love
your neighbour the more, you are told to love the enemy and
the stranger. The exaction of a kindness not due, is an emphasiz-
ing of that which is due. Now the kindness which is due comes
before that which is not due, as primary, as of more dignity,
as prior to its attendant and companion, that which is not due.
Therefore, since the primary rationality of goodness is for it to
be put in evidence in respect of its own possessions, as a matter of
justice, while its secondary <rationality> is in respect of the posses-
sions of others, as of the overflowing of such a righteousness as
exceeds that of the scribes and pharisees, how can that secondary
rationality be credited to a goodness which lacks the primary,
having no man of its own, and on this account again is even
defective? And being defective through having no man of its
own, how can it have overflowed into a man not its own? Put
in evidence that primary rationality, and then you may lay claim
to the secondary. No object, outside its due order, can be claimed
as rational: far less can rationality itself in any person be de-
prived of its due order. Even suppose there could be a rationality
of goodness, which began at the second degree, that in respect
of the stranger, not even this second degree could be firmly based
upon rationality: there is another means of casting it down. Not
even secondary goodness, towards the stranger, can be considered
rational unless it functions without injustice to him to whom the
property belongs. Any goodness whatsoever is in first instance
made rational by its justice. Even as in the primary degree the
goodness, if it is just, will be rational when it is exercised in re-
spect of its own belongings, so also towards the stranger it will
be seen to be rational if it is not unjust. Otherwise, what sort of
goodness is this, which comes to exist by means of an injustice,
and even that on behalf of a stranger? Perhaps on behalf of one
of the household an unjust goodness may be conceived of as to
some extent rational: but on behalf of a stranger, to whom not even
honest goodness was lawfully due, by what reasoning can good-
ness so unjust be defended as rational? For what is more unjust,


1.24 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 65

more iniquitous, more dishonest, than to confer such benefits on
another man's slave that he is stolen from his master, is claimed
as belonging to another, is bribed to act against his master's life
and honour, and, to make matters worse, all this while still under
his master's roof, still living on his provisions, still in fear of his
chastisement? Even in the secular sphere there would be dis-
approval of that sort of pretendant, of a kidnapper still more.
No better is Marcion's god, breaking his way into a world not
his own, stealing man from God, son from father, foster-son from
nursing-father, servant from master, so as to make him undutiful
to God, disrespectful to his Father, ungrateful to his foster-
Father, worthless to his Master. I ask you: if rational goodness has
this effect on him, what effect would irrational goodness have?
I should reckon no man more presumptuous than the one who
in one God's water is baptized for another god, who towards one
God's sky spreads out his hands to a different god, bows down
upon one God's soil to a god whose soil it is not, over one God's
bread celebrates thanksgivings to another, of one God's posses-
sions does for another god's credit works which claim the name
of almsgiving and charily. Who is this god, so good that by him
a man is made bad, so kindly disposed to that man that he causes
another God, the man's own Master, to be incensed against him?

24. As a god is both eternal and rational, no less, I suppose, is
he perfect in all things: for, Ye shall be perfect, as is your Father who
is in heaven.a
Produce the evidence of <your god's> goodness being
perfect. Although it is surely enough imperfect, as it is seen to be
neither natural nor rational, I shall next expose it by a different
approach. It is now not even imperfect, but altogether less than
that, defective and impoverished, less than the total of the calls
upon it, seeing it is not in evidence among all. For not all men are
being saved, fewer indeed than all the Creator's Jews and Chris-
tians. So that as the majority are perishing, how can you main-
tain the perfection of a goodness which is for the greater part
inactive, to a few men some small thing, to the majority nothing
at all, surrendering to perdition, part cause of destruction?1 But
if the majority are not to be saved, malice and not goodness will
be the more perfect: for as it is the effectual working of goodness

24. 1 Irenaeus, A.H. iv. li. I, asks Marcion why the goodness of his good god
falls short of saving all men.

8268033 F


1.24 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 67

which brings about salvation, so it is the working of malice which
omits to save. As then for the most part it omits to save, since it
saves only a few, it will be more perfect in neglecting to help
than in helping. You cannot retort to the Creator's discredit any
deficiency in goodness towards all: for since you hold him to be
a judge, you prove, if anything, that he must be understood as a
dispenser of goodness, not a lavish expender of it. The latter you
claim for your god. By such goodness alone you make him superior
to the Creator: and as he claims this as his only attribute, and
claims it in its totality, it was his duty not to be in default in
respect of any man. But I have no further mind to argue that
Marcion's god is imperfect in goodness on the ground that the
greater number are perishing. It is enough that those whom he
does save are seen to have their salvation incomplete, and that
this proves his goodness is incomplete: for they are saved as far
as the soul, <and no more,> having perished in the flesh, since
according to him the flesh does not rise again.2 Whence this
halving of salvation, if not from defect of goodness? What could
have been the function of perfect goodness, if not to bring back
to salvation the whole man, wholly condemned by the Creator,
wholly elected for himself by the god supremely good? As far
as I know, among his adherents the flesh is baptized, the flesh
is debarred from matrimony, the flesh suffers torture at the
confession of the Name.3 Also even if the flesh has sins accounted
to it, the soul's guilt precedes, and the initiative in blame ought
for preference to be imputed to the soul to which the flesh mini-
sters in the capacity of a servant.4 In fact, when flesh is de-
prived of soul it ceases to sin. So that even in this is goodness
unjust, in this also imperfect, that it surrenders to destruction the
more innocent constituent, that which does wrong from obedience
and not from choice. Now although, in the view of your heresy,
Christ did not clothe himself with the verity of flesh, yet he did
vouchsafe to take upon him the appearance of it. The very fact
that he made a false pretence of it has given it some claim upon
him. Yet what else is man if not flesh? It was corporeal matter,
not animate matter, which first obtained from its Author the
name of 'man'. And God made into a man, it says, mud from the earthb

24. 2 Cf. above p. x.
3 On the refusal of matrimony see I. 29; on martyrdom, above, p. xiv.
4 On the joint responsibility of soul and body, cf. Tert. de Paenitentia 3.


1.25 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 69

not 'soul', for soul came by breathing. And the man was made into
a living soul.
Which man? Evidently he who was <made out of>
mud. And God placed the man in paradise—that which he had
formed,
not that which he had breathed—one who at this point is
flesh, not one who is soul. And as that is so, with what effrontery
shall you assert <for your god> the perfect claim to goodness,
when this is defective as excluding from deliverance not merely a
great part of mankind, but also an element in the constitution of
every individual? If that is plenary grace and fullness of mercy
which is salutary to the soul alone, this present life has more to give
us, for we enjoy it in our wholeness and completeness: whereas to
rise again only in part will be to be penalized, not set free. Also it
was to be expected of perfect goodness that the man, when set at
liberty into the faith of the god supremely good, should at once be
removed from the household and domination of the God who is
cruel. Yet the Marcionite still gets malaria, and the aches and
pains of his flesh still bring forth for him those other thorns and
briers: he is exposed not only to the Creator's lightnings, with his
wars and pestilences and other chastisements, but even to his
scorpions. In what respect do you suppose yourself set free from
his kingdom, when his flies still tread upon you? If your release
was for the future, why not also for the present, so that it might
be perfect? Quite different is our relationship with our Author,
our Judge, the offended Ruler of our race. You make profession of
a god who is good and nothing more: yet you cannot prove the
perfect goodness of one who does not perfectly set you free.

25. As concerns this question of his goodness, on this front we
have reached the conclusion that goodness <of this kind> is by no
means adequate for a god, as it is neither ingenerate nor rational
nor perfect, but is even dishonest and unjust, and unworthy even
of the name of goodness: because, in fact, in so far as <goodness>
is an attribute of deity it is not seemly that one should be a god,
whose claims rest on that sort of goodness, and not merely that
sort, but no other besides. So our next subject of discussion rightly
is whether a god is to be accounted such by virtue of goodness
alone, to the exclusion of those other adjuncts, those feelings and
affections, which the Marcionites deny to their god and attach
to the Creator, but which we recognize in the Creator as no dis-
honour to God. For this reason again we shall deny the godhead


1.25 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 71

of one in whom are not found all those <attributes and functions>
which are worthy of a god. Since he has presumed to dignify by
the name of Christ some god out of the school of Epicurus,1 to
the end that 'that which is blessed and incorruptible should give
no trouble either to itself or to anything else'—for by brooding
over this sentence Marcion has abstracted from him all functions
involving severity or criticism—he ought either to have conceived
of a god totally immobile and insensitive—and what could that
one have had in common with Christ, who was a trouble to the
Jews by his doctrine, and to himself by his passion?—or else
he ought to have admitted his possession of the other emotions—
and what could such a one have in common with Epicurus, with
whom neither he nor Christians have any affinity? For here is
one who has in the past been at rest, and has not in the meantime
given notice of himself by any work he has done. And does not
the fact that he has after so long a time felt <affection> with a view
to man's salvation—evidently by an act of will—prove that he
became at that point subject to the impulse of a new act of will,
and is thus shown to be exposed to the other passions and affec-
tions besides? For every act of will is at the instigation of desire:
no man can wish for something without desiring it. Also the
will is accompanied by interestedness: for no man can will and
desire anything without being interested in it. Consequently, when
he began to will and to desire with a view to man's salvation, he
at once caused concern to himself and to others, though Epicurus
disapproves, while Marcion recommends. For he brought into
opposition to himself that, whatever it was, either sin or death,
against which his will, his desire, his interest, came into action—-
and in particular their Judge and Lord, the Creator of man. But
no activity which is not unopposed can avoid meeting with
hostility. In fact by his will and desire and interest in delivering
man he at once sets himself in hostility both to him from whom he
obtains deliverance—for in opposition to hurt he is going to
deliver the man to himself—and to those <conditions> from which
he delivers him—for he is going to deliver him over to others.
And further, in its opposition to things to which it is hostile,

25. 1 The Marcionite god, of an Epicurean type, if consistent with himself
does not and cannot care. On the Epicurean gods: Cicero, de Nat. Deor. i. 19.
50 sqq.; Lucretius v. 146 sqq.: Irenaeus, A.H. III. xxxviii. a. 'That which is
blessed, etc." is Epicurus' own saying: Diog. Laert. x. 139.


1.26 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 73

hostility cannot help being accompanied by its subordinates,
which are anger, discord, hatred, contempt, indignation, dis-
pleasure, disapproval, offence. If all these are in attendance upon
hostility, and hostility is making it its care to deliver man, and
man's deliverance is an effective working of goodness, such a
goodness cannot accomplish this apart from its own endowments,
those feelings, I mean, and affections by which it is made to
function against the Creator: otherwise it must be ruled out as
irrational on this ground too, that it is lacking in those feelings
and affections which it ought to possess. I shall discuss these
matters more fully in my case for the Creator: for they are counts
in their indictment against him.

26. At present it is enough to have shown their god to be
thoroughly inconsistent, even in their laudation of goodness as
his one and only attribute: for because of this they refuse to im-
pute to him those emotions of mind which they object to in the
Creator. For if he displays neither hostility nor wrath, if he
neither condemns nor distrains, if, that is, he never makes him-
self a judge, I cannot see how his moral law, that more extensive
moral law, can have stability. To what purpose does he lay down
commands if he will not require performance, or prohibit trans-
gressions if he is not to exact penalties, if he is incapable of judge-
ment, a stranger to all emotions of severity and reproof? Why
does he forbid the commission of an act he does not penalize
when committed? It would have been much more honest of him
not to forbid an act he was not going to penalize, than to re-
frain from penalizing what he had forbidden. In fact he ought
openly to have allowed it: for if he was not going to penalize it
he had no reason to forbid it. In real life an act forbidden without
sanctions is tacitly permitted: and in any case one only forbids
the commission of acts one dislikes to see being done. So this
<god> is exceptionally dull-witted if he is not offended by the
doing of that which he dislikes to see being done: for offence is
attendant upon wishes set at naught. Or else, if he does take
offence, he ought to be displeased, and if displeased he ought to
punish. For punishment is the outcome of displeasure, as dis-
pleasure is the due reward of offence, and offence, as I have
said, is attendant upon wishes set at naught. But as he does not
punish, it is plain that he is not offended: and as he is not offended


1.27 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 75

it is plain that his wishes suffer no hurt when that is done which
he has desired should not be done: and in that case the wrong-
doing takes place in accordance with his will, seeing that any-
thing which does no injury to his will is in no opposition to his
will. Or if you say it is characteristic of divine virtue, or goodness
if you like, to wish a thing not to be done and forbid it to be done,
and yet not be concerned when it is done, I answer that the one
who wished it not to be was already in a state of concern, and
that there is no sense in his not being concerned at a thing done,
when by wishing it not to be done he has already been concerned
that it should not be done. For by not wishing it he forbade it.
And has he not also become a judge, by wishing it not to be, and
therefore forbidding it? For that it must not be done was a judge-
ment, and that it must be forbidden was a sentence. So then he
too is now a judge. If it is unseemly for a god to judge, or if it is
seemly for a god to judge to the extent that he is merely un-
willing, merely forbids, yet does not penalize the act when done—
and yet there is nothing so unseemly for a god as to abstain from
prosecuting an act he has disapproved of, an act he has forbidden:
first, because to every one of his decisions and laws he owes a
sanction, to establish its authority and the necessity of obedience:
and secondly, because that must needs be offensive to him which
he has wished should not be done, and by so wishing has for-
bidden: while for a god to be merciful to evil is more unseemly
than for him to punish it, especially if he is a god supremely good:
for he can only be completely good if he is the enemy of the bad,
so as to put his love of the good into action by hatred of the bad,
and discharge his wardship of the good by the overthrowing of
the bad.

27. But evidently he does judge evil by refusing consent, and
condemns it by forbidding it: yet he forgives it by not avenging,
and excuses it by not punishing. There you have as a god a de-
faulter against the truth, one who annuls his own decision. He
is afraid to condemn what he does condemn, afraid to hate what
he does not love, allows when done that which he does not allow
to be done, and would rather point out what he disapproves of
than give proof of it. Here you will find the ghost of goodness,
discipline itself a phantasm, casual precepts, offences free from
fear. Listen, you sinners, and any of you not yet so, that you


1.27 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 77

may be able to become so: a better god has been discovered, one
who is neither offended nor angry nor inflicts punishment, who
has no fire warming up in hell, and no outer darkness wherein
there is shuddering and gnashing of teeth: he is merely kind. Of
course he forbids you to sin—but only in writing. It lies with you
whether you consent to accord him obedience, so as to appear
to have given honour to your god: for he will not accept your
fear. And in fact the Marcionites make it their boast that they do
not at all fear their god: for, they say, a bad god needs to be
feared, but a good one loved. Fool: you call him lord, but deny
he is to be feared, though this is a term suggesting authority, and
with it fear. Yet how shall you love, unless you fear not to love?
Evidently he is not even your father, to whom would be due
both love for affection's sake, and fear for the sake of authority:
nor is he your lawful lord, for you to love for human kindness'
sake and fear for the sake of discipline. This is the way kidnappers
are loved without being feared. The only domination which can
be an object of fear is the lawful and regular one: though even
an illicit one can be an object of affection, since it rests not upon
respect but upon affectation, on seduction and not on force: and
what greater seduction is there than to abstain from punishing
wrongdoing? So then, you who decline to fear your god because
he is good, what keeps you from bubbling over into all manner of
vice—the superlative enjoyment of life, I suppose, for all who do
not fear God? Why absent yourself from those popular pleasures,
the excitement of the race-course, the savagery of the wild beast
show, the lechery of the stage? Why also during persecution do
you not at once offer your incense, and so gain your life by
denial? Oh no, you answer, far from it. In that case you are
already in fear—of doing wrong: and by your fear you have
admitted your fear of him who forbids the wrong. It is another
matter if, in imitation of your god's perversity, you pay respect
to him whom you do not fear, as he in turn forbids what he does
not punish. With much greater inconsequence, to the question,
What will happen on that day to every sinner? they answer that
he will be cast away, as it were out of sight. Is not this an act of
judgement? He is judged worthy to be cast away—evidently by
a judgement of condemnation: unless perhaps the sinner is cast
away into salvation, so that this too may stand to the credit of a
god supremely good. And yet what can being cast away amount


1.28 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 79

to, if not the loss of that which he was on the way to obtain if he
were not cast away—salvation, no less? So then he will be cast
away to the damage of his salvation: and a sentence like this can
only be passed by one offended and indignant, a punisher of
wrongdoing—in short, a judge.

28. And what will be the end of him when cast out? He will be
overtaken, they answer, by the Creator's fire. Has then your god
no element in readiness even for this purpose, to which without
cruelty he may consign sinners against himself, and so avoid
handing them over to the Creator? What is the Creator to do
next? He will, I suppose, make ready for them, as blasphemers
against himself, a hell more fully stocked with brimstone—unless
perhaps, being a jealous God, he shows favour to deserters from
his opponent. Look at this god in every sense perverse, in every
direction irrational, in all respects ineffective—and so non-
existent. Neither his character nor his condition nor his nature nor
any activity of his do I find consistent—not even the sacrament
of his faith.1 For to what purpose, in his sight, is even baptism
required? If there is remission of sins, how shall one be supposed
to remit sins who is supposed not to retain them? He could only
retain them by judging them. If there is loosing of the bonds of
death, how could one let them loose from death who had never
kept them in bondage to death? He could only have had them in
bondage by having condemned them from the beginning. If
there is man's second birth, how can one give a second birth who
has never given a first birth? The repetition of an act is outside
the competence of one who has done no act to begin with. If
there is receiving of the Holy Ghost, how can one grant the
Spirit who has not first supplied a soul? For soul is in some sort
that on which Spirit constructs its abode. Thus he sets his seal
upon a man who has never to his mind been unsealed: he washes
a man never to his mind defiled: and into this whole sacrament
of salvation he plunges flesh which has no part or lot in salvation.
Not even a rustic will go and water land which is to return no
fruit—unless he is as stupid as Marcion's god. And again, why
does he impose upon the flesh, so utterly weak and unworthy,
the great burden, or if you like the glory, of chastity? Or what

28. 1 See Appendix i.


1.29 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 81

shall I say of the folly of a moral requirement by which he
sanctifies an object already holy?2 If it is weak, why lay a burden
on it? or if unworthy, why embellish it? Whether he burdens it
or embellishes it, why not grant it the recompense of salvation?
Why does he defraud the flesh of payment for its services by with-
holding the wages of salvation? And why does he permit the
glory of chastity to die in and with the flesh?

29. Among that god's adherents no flesh is baptized except it
be virgin or widowed or unmarried, or has purchased baptism by
divorce: as though even eunuch's flesh was born of anything but
marital intercourse.1 Of course this regulation can justify itself
if matrimony stands condemned. We have to inquire whether
it is justly condemned: not that we intend to demolish the blessed-
ness of chastity, as do certain Nicolaitans,2 advocates of vice and
wantonness; but as those who, without condemning marital inter-
course, recognize and seek after chastity, giving it preference,
not as a good thing over a bad one, but as a better thing over a
good one. For we do not repudiate marital intercourse, but give
it lower rank: nor do we demand chastity, but advise it, retaining
both the good thing and the better, to be followed according to
each man's powers. But we vigorously defend matrimony when,
under the charge of indecency, it suffers hostile attack to the dis-
credit of the Creator: for he, in consideration of the honour of that
estate, blessed matrimony for the increase of mankind, even as
he blessed the whole of creation for wholesome and advantageous
uses. So then food need not be condemned because when too
curiously sought after it conduces to gluttony: neither is clothing

28. 2 It is not clear what this refers to: certainly not to the flesh, for that is in
Marcion's view inherently unholy: nor to the soul, for that needs to be rescued
from its Creator. Kroymann transfers this sentence to the beginning of ch. 29,
where the meaning might conceivably be that by baptizing only his unmarried
and unmarriageable adherents Marcion performs the otiose act of sanctifying
flesh already holy by virtue of its virginity—a view which Tertullian might
perhaps have entertained, though he did not, but which Marcion was incapable
of entertaining.

29. 'In this translation 'marital intercourse' stands for nubere and nuptiae,
'matrimony' for coniugium and conubium, and 'marriage' for matrimonium. The
four terms are not quite synonymous, though they could easily be interchanged.
2 Probably those at Ephesus and Pergamum who taught that profligacy was
to be commended: Rev. 2:6, 15. There was a gnostic sect of this name during
the second century: Irenaeus, A.H. I. xxiii.


1.29 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 83

to be called to account simply because, when bought at too high
a price, it becomes proud and pretentious. So neither need mar-
riage and its obligations be held in contempt just because, when
unrestrained and uninhibited, it blazes out into wantonness.
There is a wide difference between purpose and misuse, between
moderation and excess. And so here, it is not God's ordinance
which calls for disapproval, but man's deviation from it. For so
the rule was laid down by him who established the ordinance,
who said not only, Increase and multiply,a but also, Thou shall not
commit adultery,
and, Thou shah not desire thy neighbour's wife,b
while he punishes with death both sacrilegious incest and the
portentous madness of lust against male persons and cattle.c And
if now there is a limitation imposed upon intercourse—a limita-
tion which, on the authority of the Paraclete, is justified among
us by that spiritual reckoning which permits only one marriage
while in the faith3—the setting of a limit will be within the
competence of the same God who had of old time dispensed with
limits. The same will gather who has scattered abroad, the same
will cut down the undergrowth who has planted it, the same will
reap the harvest who has sown it: the same can say, It remaineth
that those also who have wives should be as though they had not,d
who
formerly said, Increase and multiply:a his the end, whose also was
the beginning. Yet the undergrowth is not cleared because of
any complaint against it, nor is the harvest reaped for condemna-
tion, but because it serves its time. So also the obligations of
matrimony submit to the axe and sickle of chastity, not because
they are evil but because they are ripe for fulfilment: they had
been kept in reserve expressly for chastity, so as to provide it with
a harvest by being cut down. Consequently I shall now affirm
that when Marcion's god expresses disapproval of marriage, as
an evil thing and as a traffic in unchastity, he acts against that
very chastity which he thinks he favours. He obliterates the
material it works on, because if there is to be no marital inter-
course there is no chastity. Commendation given to abstinence
is of no account when prohibition is imposed, since there are
some things which obtain approval by contrast. Just as strength
is made perfect in weakness, so does abstinence from intercourse
become remarkable while intercourse is allowed. Can anyone
indeed be called abstinent when deprived of that which he is

29. 3 See above, p. xviii.


1.29 ADVERSUS MARCIONEM 85

to abstain from? Is there any temperance in eating and drinking
during famine? Or any putting away of ambition in poverty?
Or any bridling of passion in castration? Moreover, I wonder if
this suppression of the whole increase of the human race is in
keeping with the character of a god supremely good. How can
he desire the salvation of the man whom he forbids to be born,
as he does by abolishing the act from which birth arises? How
can he have one on whom to set the seal of his goodness, when
he does not suffer such to exist? How can he show affection to one
of whose origin he does not approve? Possibly he is afraid of
excess of population, afraid of the labour of liberating too many,
afraid of making large numbers of heretics, of having too prolific
Marcionites begotten of Marcionites. Less barbarous than this
was Pharaoh's hardness, which slew them as they were born.
Pharaoh takes away their souls, but this one does not give them
souls: Pharaoh removes them out of life, but this one does not
admit them into life. In the matter of homicide there is no differ-
ence between the two: under both of them a man is slain, under
the one after he is born, under the other when he ought to be
born. You would have pleased us better, heretical god,4 if you
really had acted counter to that Creator's ordinance by which
he joined together male and female: for in fact even your Mar-
cion was born of marital intercourse.

        So much concerning Marcion's god. Our postulate that deity
necessarily implies unity, as well as the limitations of Marcion's
god's character, prove him entirely non-existent. The continua-
tion of my treatise as a whole follows closely upon this fact. So
then if anyone thinks I have accomplished too little, let him wait
for what is kept in reserve until its proper time, as well as for my
discussion of those scriptures which Marcion makes uses.

29. 4 The impossible vocative dee is a hint that Marcion's god is no god, and
has no right to be addressed by the proper vocative thus.


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Ernest Evans(ed), Tertullian: Adversus Marcionem. © Oxford University Press. 1972.  Reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press.

Edited and translated by Canon Ernest Evans, 1972
Transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2001

Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press
SPIonic font, free from here.


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