Ante-nicene fathers



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“Hateful to me that man as Hades’ gates,

Who one thing thinks, while he another states.”473 [This spiritual man] shall also judge the vain speeches of the perverse Gnostics, by showing that they are the disciples of Simon Magus.

4. He will judge also the Ebionites; [for] how can they be saved unless it was God who wrought out their salvation upon earth? Or how shall man pass into God, unless God has [first] passed into man? And how shall he (man) escape from the generation subject to death, if not by means474 of a new generation, given in a wonderful and unexpected manner (but as a sign of salvation) by God—[I mean] that regeneration which flows from the virgin through faith?475 Or how shall they receive adoption from God if they remain in this [kind of] generation, which is naturally possessed by man in this world? And how could He (Christ) have been greater than Solomon,476 or greater than Jonah, or have been the Lord of David,477 who was of the same substance as they were? How, too, could He have subdued478 him who was stronger than men,479 who had not only overcome man, but also retained him under his power, and conquered him who had conquered, while he set free mankind who had been conquered, unless He had been greater than man who had thus been vanquished? But who else is superior to, and more eminent than, that man who was formed after the likeness of God, except the Son of God, after whose image man was created? And for this reason He did in these last days480 exhibit the similitude; [for] the Son of God was made man, assuming the ancient production [of His hands] into His own nature,481 as I have shown in the immediately preceding book.

5. He shall also judge those who describe Christ as [having become man] only in [human] opinion. For how can they imagine that they do themselves carry on a real discussion, when their Master was a mere imaginary being? Or how can they receive anything stedfast from Him, if He was a merely imagined being, and not a verity? And how can these men really be partaken of salvation, if He in whom they profess to believe, manifested Himself as a merely imaginary being? Everything, therefore, connected with these men is unreal, and nothing [possessed of the character of] truth; and, in these circumstances, it may be made a question whether (since, perchance, they themselves in like manner are not men, but mere dumb animals) they do not present,482 in most cases, simply a shadow of humanity.

6. He shall also judge false prophets, who, without having received the gift of prophecy from God, and not possessed of the fear of God, but either for the sake of vainglory, or with a view to some personal advantage, or acting in some other way under the influence of a wicked spirit, pretend to utter prophecies, while all the time they lie against God.

7. He shall also judge those who give rise to schisms, who are destitute of the love of God, and who look to their own special advantage rather than to the unity of the Church; and who for trifling reasons, or any kind of reason which occurs to them, cut in pieces and divide the great and glorious body of Christ, and so far as in them lies, [positively] destroy it,—men who prate of peace while they give rise to war, and do in truth strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel.483 For no reformation of so great importance can be effected by them, as will compensate for the mischief arising from their schism. He shall also judge all those who are beyond the pale of the truth, that is, who are outside the Church; but he himself shall be judged by no one. For to him all things are consistent: he has a full faith in one God Almighty, of whom are all things; and in the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom are all things, and in the dispensations connected with Him, by means of which the Son of God became man; and a firm belief in the Spirit of God, who furnishes us with a knowledge of the truth, and has set forth the dispensations of the Father and the Son, in virtue of which He dwells with every generation of men,484 according to the will of the Father.

8. True knowledge485 is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution486 of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body487 of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved488 without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system489 of doctrine, and neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy; and [above all, it consists in] the pre-eminent gift of love,490 which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels all the other gifts [of God].

9. Wherefore the Church does in every place, because of that love which she cherishes towards God, send forward, throughout all time, a multitude of martyrs to the Father; while all others491 not only have nothing of this kind to point to among themselves, but even maintain that such witness-bearing is not at all necessary, for that their system of doctrines is the true witness [for Christ], with the exception, perhaps, that one or two among them, during the whole time which has elapsed since the Lord appeared on earth, have occasionally, along with our martyrs, borne the reproach of the name (as if he too [the heretic] had obtained mercy), and have been led forth with them [to death], being, as it were, a sort of retinue granted unto them. For the Church alone sustains with purity the reproach of those who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake, and endure all sorts of punishments, and are put to death because of the love which they bear to God, and their confession of His Son; often weakened indeed, yet immediately increasing her members, and becoming whole again, after the same manner as her type,492 Lot’s wife, who became a pillar of salt. Thus, too, [she passes through an experience] similar to that of the ancient prophets, as the Lord declares, “For so persecuted they the prophets who were before you; ”493 inasmuch as she does indeed, in a new fashion, suffer persecution from those who do not receive the word of God, while the self-same spirit rests upon her494 [as upon these ancient prophets].



10. And indeed the prophets, along with other things which they predicted, also foretold this, that all those on whom the Spirit of God should rest, and who would obey the word of the Father, and serve Him according to their ability, should suffer persecution, and be stoned and slain. For the prophets prefigured in themselves all these things, because of their love to God, and on account of His word. For since they themselves were members of Christ, each; one of them in his place as a member did, in accordance with this, set forth the prophecy [assigned him]; all of them, although many, prefiguring only one, and proclaiming the things which pertain to one. For just as the working of the whole body is exhibited through means of our members, while the figure of a complete man is not displayed by one member, but through means of all taken together, so also did all the prophets prefigure the one [Christ]; while every one of them, in his special place as a member, did, in accordance with this, fill up the [established] dispensation, and shadowed forth beforehand that particular working of Christ which was connected with that member.

11. For some of them, beholding Him in glory, saw His glorious life (conversationem) at the Father’s right hand;495 others beheld Him coming on the clouds as the Son of man;496 and those who declared regarding Him, “They shall look on Him whom they have pierced,”497 indicated His [second] advent, concerning which He Himself says, “Thinkest thou that when the Son of man cometh, He shall find faith on the earth? ”498 Paul also refers to this event when he says, “If, however, it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you, and to you that are troubled rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven, with His mighty angels, and in a flame of fire.”499 Others again, speaking of Him as a judge, and [referring], as if it were a burning furnace, [to] the day of the Lord, who “gathers the wheat into His barn, but will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire,”500 were accustomed to threaten those who were unbelieving, concerning whom also the Lord Himself declares, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which my Father has prepared for the devil and his angels.”501 And the apostle in like manner says [of them], “Who shall be punished with everlasting death from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of His power, when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in those who believe in Him.”502 There are also some [of them] who declare, “Thou art fairer than the children of men; ”503 and, “God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows; ”504 and, “Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O Most Mighty, with Thy beauty and Thy fairness, and go forward and proceed prosperously; and rule Thou because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness.”505 And whatever other things of a like nature are spoken regarding Him, these indicated that beauty and splendour which exist in His kingdom, along with the transcendent and pre-eminent exaltation [belonging] to all who are under His sway, that those who hear might desire to be found there, doing such things as are pleasing to God. Again, there are those who say, “He is a man, and who shall know him? ”506 and, “I came unto the prophetess, and she bare a son, and His name is called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God; ”507 and those [of them] who proclaimed Him as Immanuel, [born] of the Virgin, exhibited the union of the Word of God with His own workmanship, [declaring] that the Word should become flesh, and the Son of God the Son of man (the pure One opening purely that pure womb which regenerates men unto God, and which He Himself made pure); and having become this which we also are, He [nevertheless] is the Mighty God, and possesses a generation which cannot be declared. And there are also some of them who say, “The Lord hath spoken in Zion, and uttered His voice from Jerusalem;508 and, “In Judah is God known; ”509 —these indicated His advent which took place in Judea. Those, again, who declare that “God comes from the south, and from a mountain thick with foliage,”510 announced His advent at Bethlehem, as I have pointed out in the preceding book.511 From that place, also, He who rules, and who feeds the people of His Father, has come. Those, again, who declare that at His coming “the lame man shall leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall [speak] plainly, and the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall hear,”512 and that “the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, shall be strengthened,”513 and that “the dead which are in the grave shall arise,”514 and that He Himself” shall take [upon Him] our weaknesses, and bear our sorrows,”515 —[all these] proclaimed those works of healing which were accomplished by Him.

12. Some of them, moreover—[when they predicted that] as a weak and inglorious man, and as one who knew what it was to bear infirmity,516 and sitting upon the foal of an ass,517 He should come to Jerusalem; and that He should give His back to stripes,518 and His cheeks to palms [which struck Him]; and that He should be led as a sheep to the slaughter;519 and that He should have vinegar and gall given Him to drink;520 and that He should be forsaken by His friends and those nearest to Him;521 and that He should stretch forth His hands the whole day long;522 and that He should be mocked and maligned by those who looked upon Him;523 and that His garments should be parted, and lots cast upon His raiment;524 and that He should be brought down to the dust of death525 with all [the other] things of a like nature—prophesied His coming in the character of a man as He entered Jerusalem, in which by His passion and crucifixion He endured all the things which have been mentioned. Others, again, when they said, “The holy Lord remembered His own dead ones who slept in the dust, and came down to them to raise them up, that He might save them,”526 furnished us with the reason on account of which He suffered all these things. Those, moreover, who said, “In that day, saith the Lord, the sun shall go down at noon, and there shall be darkness over the earth in the clear day; and I will turn your feast days into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation,”527 plainly announced that obscuration of the sun which at the time of His crucifixion took place from the sixth hour onwards, and that after this event, those days which were their festivals according to the law, and their songs, should be changed into grief and lamentation when they were handed over to the Gentiles. Jeremiah, too, makes this point still clearer, when he thus speaks concerning Jerusalem: “She that hath born [seven] languisheth; her soul hath become weary; her sun hath gone down while it was yet noon; she hath been confounded, and suffered reproach: the remainder of them will I give to the sword in the sight of their enemies.”528

13. Those of them, again, who spoke of His having slumbered and taken sleep, and of His having risen again because the Lord sustained Him,529 and who enjoined the principalities of heaven to set open the everlasting doors, that the King of glory might go in,530 proclaimed beforehand His resurrection from the dead through the Father’s power, and His reception into heaven. And when they expressed themselves thus, “His going forth is from the height of heaven, and His returning even to the highest heaven; and there is no one who can hide himself from His heat,”531 they announced that very truth of His being taken up again to the place from which He came down, and that there is no one who can escape His righteous judgment. And those who said, “The Lord hath reigned; let the people be enraged: [even] He who sitteth upon the cherubim; let the earth be moved,”532 were thus predicting partly that wrath from all nations which after His ascension came upon those who believed in Him, with the movement of the whole earth against the Church; and partly the fact that, when He comes from heaven with His mighty angels, the whole earth shall be shaken, as He Himself declares, “There shall be a great earthquake, such as has not been from the beginning.”533 And again, when one says, “Whosoever is judged, let him stand opposite; and whosoever is justified, let him draw near to the servant534 of God; ”535 and, “Woe unto you, for ye shall wax old as doth a garment, and the moth shall eat you up; ”and, “All flesh shall be humbled, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in the highest,”536 —it is thus indicated that, after His passion and ascension, God shall cast down under His feet all who were opposed to Him, and He shall be exalted above all, and there shall be no one who can be justified or compared to Him.

14. And those of them who declare that God would make a new covenant537 with men, not such as that which He made with the fathers at Mount Horeb, and would give to men a new heart and a new spirit;538 and again, “And remember ye not the things of old: behold, I make new things which shall now arise, and ye shall know it; and I will make a way in the desert, and riven in a dry land, to give drink to my chosen people, my people whom I have acquired, that they may show forth my praise,”539 —plainly announced that liberty which distinguishes the new covenant, and the new wine which is put into new bottles,540 [that is], the faith which is in Christ, by which He has proclaimed the way of righteousness sprung up in the desert, and the streams of the Holy Spirit in a dry land, to give water to the elect people of God, whom He has acquired, that they might show forth His praise, but not that they might blaspheme Him who made these things, that is, God.

15. And all those other points which I have shown the prophets to have uttered by means of so long a series of Scriptures, he who is truly spiritual will interpret by pointing out, in regard to every one of the things which have been spoken, to what special point in the dispensation of the Lord is referred, and [by thus exhibiting] the entire system of the work of the Son of God, knowing always the same God, and always acknowledging the same Word of God, although He has [but] now been manifested to us; acknowledging also at all times the same Spirit of God, although He has been poured out upon us after a new fashion in these last times, [knowing that He descends] even from the creation of the world to its end upon the human race simply as such, from whom those who believe God and follow His word receive that salvation which flows from Him. Those, on the other hand, who depart from Him, and despise His precepts, and by their deeds bring dishonour on Him who made them, and by their opinions blaspheme Him who nourishes them, heap up against themselves most righteous judgment.541 He therefore (i.e., the spiritual man) sifts and tries them all, but he himself is tried by no man:542 he neither blasphemes his Father, nor sets aside His dispensations, nor inveighs against the fathers, nor dishonours the prophets, by maintaining that they were [sent] from another God [than he worships], or again, that their prophecies were derived from different sources.543

Chapter XXXIV.—Proof Against the Marcionites, that the Prophets Referred in All Their Predictions to Our Christ.

1. Now I shall simply say, in opposition to all the heretics, and principally against the followers of Marcion, and against those who are like to these, in maintaining that time prophets were from another God [than He who is announced in the Gospel], read with earnest care that Gospel which has been conveyed to us by the apostles, and read with earnest care the prophets, and you will find that the whole conduct, and all the doctrine, and all the sufferings of our Lord, were predicted through them. But if a thought of this kind should then suggest itself to you, to say, What then did the Lord bring to us by His advent?—know ye that He brought all [possible] novelty, by bringing Himself who had been announced. For this very thing was proclaimed beforehand, that a novelty should come to renew and quicken mankind. For the advent of the King is previously announced by those servants who are sent [before Him], in order to the preparation and equipment of those men who are to entertain their Lord. But when the King has actually come, and those who are His subjects have been filled with that joy which was proclaimed beforehand, and have attained to that liberty which He bestows, and share in the sight of Him, and have listened to His words, and have enjoyed the gifts which He confers, the question will not then be asked by any that are possessed of sense what new thing the King has brought beyond [that proclaimed by] those who announced His coming. For He has brought Himself, and has bestowed on men those good things which were announced beforehand, which things the angels desired to look into.544

2. But the servants would then have been proved false, and not sent by the Lord, if Christ on His advent, by being found exactly such as He was previously announced, had not fulfilled their words. Wherefore He said, “Think not that I have come to destroy the law or the prophets; I came not to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Until heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall not pass from the law and the prophets till all come to pass.”545 For by His advent He Himself fulfilled all things, and does still fulfil in the Church the new covenant foretold by the law, onwards to the consummation [of all things]. To this effect also Paul, His apostle, says in the Epistle to the Romans, “But now,546 without the law, has the righteousness of God been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; for the just shall live by faith.”547 But this fact, that the just shall live by faith, had been previously announced548 by the prophets.

3. But whence could the prophets have had power to predict the advent of the King, and to preach beforehand that liberty which was bestowed by Him, and previously to announce all things which were done by Christ, His words, His works, and His sufferings, and to predict the new covenant, if they had received prophetical inspiration from another God [than He who is revealed in the Gospel], they being ignorant, as ye allege, of the ineffable Father, of His kingdom, and His dispensations, which the Son of God fulfilled when He came upon earth in these last times? Neither are ye in a position to say that these things came to pass by a certain kind of chance, as if they were spoken by the prophets in regard to some other person, while like events happened to the Lord. For all the prophets prophesied these same things, but they never came to pass in the case of any one of the ancients. For if these things had happened to any man among them of old time, those [prophets] who lived subsequently would certainly not have prophesied that these events should come to pass in the last times. Moreover, there is in fact none among the fathers, nor the prophets, nor the ancient kings, in whose case any one of these things properly and specifically took place. For all indeed prophesied as to the sufferings of Christ, but they themselves were far from enduring sufferings similar to what was predicted. And the points connected with the passion of the Lord, which were foretold, were realized in no other case. For neither did it happen at the death of any man among the ancients that the sun set at mid-day, nor was the veil of the temple rent, nor did the earth quake, nor were the rocks rent, nor did the dead rise up, nor was any one of these men [of old] raised up on the third day, nor received into heaven, nor at his assumption were the heavens opened, nor did the nations believe in the name of any other; nor did any from among them, having been dead and rising again, lay open the new covenant of liberty. Therefore the prophets spake not of any one else but of the Lord, in whom all these aforesaid tokens concurred.

4. If any one, however, advocating the cause of the Jews, do maintain that this new covenant consisted in the rearing of that temple which was built under Zerubbabel after the emigration to Babylon, and in the departure of the people from thence after the lapse of seventy years, let him know that the temple constructed of stones was indeed then rebuilt (for as yet that law was observed which had been made upon tables of stone), yet no new covenant was given, but they used the Mosaic law until the coming of the Lord; but from the Lord’s advent, the new covenant which brings back peace, and the law which gives life, has gone forth over the whole earth, as the prophets said: “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; and He shall rebuke many people; and they shall break down their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks, and they shall no longer learn to fight.”549 If therefore another law and word, going forth from Jerusalem, brought in such a [reign of] peace among the Gentiles which received it (the word), and convinced, through them, many a nation of its folly, then [only] it appears that the prophets spake of some other person. But if the law of liberty, that is, the word of God, preached by the apostles (who went forth from Jerusalem) throughout all the earth, caused such a change in the state of things, that these [nations] did form the swords and war-lances into ploughshares, and changed them into pruning-hooks for reaping the corn, [that is], into instruments used for peaceful purposes, and that they are now unaccustomed to fighting, but when smitten, offer also the other cheek,550 then the prophets have not spoken these things of any other person, but of Him who effected them. This person is our Lord, and in Him is that declaration borne out; since it is He Himself who has made the plough, and introduced the pruning-hook, that is, the first semination of man, which was the creation exhibited in Adam,551 and the gathering in of the produce in the last times by the Word; and, for this reason, since He joined the beginning to the end, and is the Lord of both, He has finally displayed the plough, in that the wood has been joined on to the iron, and i has thus cleansed His land because the Word, having been firmly united to flesh, and in its mechanism fixed with pins,552 has reclaimed the savage earth. In the beginning, He figured forth the pruning-hook by means of Abel, pointing out that there should be a gathering in of a righteous race of men. He says, “For behold how the just man perishes, and no man considers it; and righteous men are taken away, and no man layeth it to heart.”553 These things were acted beforehand in Abel, were also previously declared by the prophets, but were accomplished in the Lord’s person; and the same [is still true] with regard to us, the body following the example of the Head.




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