This book is the third edition of this work, in 5 books. Marcion was a Jew-hater, who rejected the Old Testament, and any bits of the New Testament, books or passages, which disagreed with him. This lead the church to start the definition of the canon. None of his works are now extant, which makes this treatise the primary source for Marcionism. Books 4 and 5 discuss Marcion's butchered 'gospel' and 'letters' of Paul. In Book 3, chapter 5, there is a discussion of why scripture must sometimes be understood allegorically, and how the Jewish prophecy works.
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EWTN has corrected all mistakes found. The character ' doubles as an apostrophe, when necessary. EVERY opinion and the whole scheme 2 of the impious and sacrilegious Marcion we now bring to the test 3 of that very Gospel which, by his process of interpolation, he has made his own.
To encourage a belief of this Gospel he has actually 4 devised for it a sort of dower, 5 in a work composed of contrary statements set in opposition, thence entitled Antitheses, and compiled with a view to such a severance of the law from the gospel as should divide the Deity into two, nay, diverse, gods--one for each Instrument, or Testament 6 as it is more usual to call it; that by such means he might also patronize 7 belief in "the Gospel according to the Antitheses.
Although it is so easy to meet them at once with a peremptory demurrer, 8 yet, in order that I may both make them admissible in argument, and account them valid expressions of opinion, and even contend that they make for our side, that so there may be all the redder shame for the blindness of their author, we have now drawn out some antitheses of our own in opposition to Marcion. And indeed 9 I do allow that one order did run its course in the old dispensation under the Creator, 10 and that another is on its way in the new under Christ.
I do not deny that there is a difference in the language of their documents, in their precepts of virtue, and in their teachings of the law; but yet all this diversity is consistent with one and the same God, even Him by whom it was arranged and also foretold. Long ago 1 did Isaiah declare that "out of Sion should go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" 2 --some other law, that is, and another word. In short, says he, "He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people;" 3 meaning not those of the Jewish people only, but of the nations which are judged by the new law of the gospel and the new word of the apostles, and are amongst themselves rebuked of their old error as soon as they have believed.
And as the result of this, "they beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears which are a kind of hunting instruments into pruning-hooks;" 4 that is to say, minds, which once were fierce and cruel, are changed by them into good dispositions productive of good fruit.
And again: "Hearken unto me, hearken unto me, my people, and ye kings, give ear unto me; for a law shall proceed from me,and my judgment for a light to the nations;" 5 wherefore He had determined and decreed that the nations also were to be enlightened by the law and the word of the gospel.
This will be that law which according to David also is unblameable, because "perfect, converting the soul" 6 from idols unto God. This likewise will be the word concerning which the same Isaiah says, "For the Lord will make a decisive word in the land.
But why enlarge, when the Creator by the same prophet foretells the renovation more manifestly and clearly than the light itself? For by Isaiah He says: "Hear me, and ye shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you," adding "the sure mercies of David," 14 in order that He might show that that covenant was to run its course in Christ.
That He was of the family of David, according to the genealogy of Mary, 15 He declared in a figurative way even by the rod which was to proceed out of the stem of Jesse. For from the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place a sacrifice is offered unto my name, even a pure offering" 17 --meaning simple prayer from a pure conscience,--it is of necessity that every change which comes as the result of innovation, introduces a diversity in those things of which the change is made, from which diversity arises also a contrariety.
For as there is nothing, after it has undergone a change, which does not become different, so there is nothing different which is not contrary. He who brought about the change, the same instituted the diversity also; He who foretold the innovation, the same announced beforehand the contrariety likewise.
Why, in your interpretation, do you impute a difference in the state of things to a difference of powers? Why do you wrest to the Creator's prejudice those examples from which you draw your antitheses, when you may recognise them all in His sensations and affections? Why, then, have you not reckoned up the Antitheses also which occur in the natural works of the Creator, who is for ever contrary to Himself?
You have not been able, unless I am misinformed, to recognise the fact, 2 that the world, at all events, 3 even amongst your people of Pontus, is made up of a diversity of elements which are hostile to one another. It is, however, the settled conviction already 5 of my mind from manifest proofs, that, as His works and plans 6 exist in the way of Antitheses, so also by the same rule exist the mysteries of His religion.
You have now our answer to the Antitheses compendiously indicated by us. We lay it down as our first position, that the evangelical Testament 12 has apostles for its authors, 13 to whom was assigned by the Lord Himself this office of publishing the gospel.
Since, however, there are apostolic 14 men also, 15 they are yet not alone, but appear with apostles and after apostles; because the preaching of disciples might be open to the suspicion of an affectation of glory, if there did not accompany it 16 the authority of the masters, which means that of Christ, 17 for it was that which made the apostles their masters.
Of the apostles, therefore, John and Matthew first instil 18 faith into us; whilst of apostolic men, Luke and Mark renew it afterwards. Never mind 22 if there does occur some variation in the order of their narratives, provided that there be agreement in the essential matter 23 of the faith, in which there is disagreement with Marcion. Marcion, on the other hand, you must know, 24 ascribes no author to his Gospel, as if it could not be allowed him to affix a title to that from which it was no crime in his eyes to subvert 25 the very body.
And here I might now make a stand, and contend that a work ought not to be recognised, which holds not its head erect, which exhibits no consistency, which gives no promise of credibility from the fulness of its title and the just profession of its author.
But we prefer to join issue 26 on every point; nor shall we leave unnoticed 27 what may fairly be understood to be on our side. Paul himself, the single authority of the document, 33 destitute of all support from preceding authorities, would not be a sufficient basis for our faith. There would be still wanted that Gospel which St. Paul found in existence, to which he yielded his belief, and with which he so earnestly wished his own to agree, that he actually on that account went up to Jerusalem to know and consult the apostles, "lest he should run, or had been running in vain;" 1 in other words, that the faith which he had learned, and the gospel which he was preaching, might be in accordance with theirs.
Then, at last, having conferred with the primitive authors, and having agreed with them touching the rule of faith, they joined their hands in fellowship, and divided their labours thenceforth in the office of preaching the gospel, so that they were to go to the Jews, and St. Paul to the Jews and the Gentiles. Inasmuch, therefore, as the enlightener of St. Luke himself desired the authority of his predecessors for both his own faith and preaching, how much more may not I require for Luke's Gospel that which was necessary for the Gospel of his master.
In the scheme of Marcion, on the contrary, 4 the mystery 5 of the Christian religion begins from the discipleship of Luke. Since, however, it was on its course previous to that point, it must have had 6 its own authentic materials, 7 by means of which it found its own way down to St. Luke; and by the assistance of the testimony which it bore, Luke himself becomes admissible. Well, but 8 Marcion, finding the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians wherein he rebukes even apostles 9 for "not walking uprightly according to the truth of the gospel," 10 as well as accuses certain false apostles of perverting the gospel of Christ , labours very hard to destroy the character 11 of those Gospels which are published as genuine 12 and under the name of apostles, in order, forsooth, to secure for his own Gospel the credit which he takes away from them.
But then, even if he censures Peter and John and James, who were thought to be pillars, it is for a manifest reason. They seemed to be changing their company 13 from respect of persons. And yet as Paul himself "became all things to all men," 14 that he might gain all, it was possible that Peter also might have betaken himself to the same plan of practising somewhat different from what he taught.
And, in like manner, if false apostles also crept in, their character too showed itself in their insisting upon circumcision and the Jewish ceremonies. So that it was not on account of their preaching, but of their conversation, that they were marked by St. Paul, who would with equal impartiality have marked them with censure, if they had erred at all with respect to God the Creator or His Christ. Each several case will therefore have to be distinguished. When Marcion complains that apostles are suspected for their prevarication and dissimulation of having even depraved the gospel, he thereby accuses Christ, by accusing those whom Christ chose.
If, then, the apostles, who are censured simply for inconsistency of walk, composed the Gospel in a pure form, 15 but false apostles interpolated their true record; and if our own copies have been made from these, 16 where will that genuine text 17 of the apostle's writings be found which has not suffered adulteration?
Which was it that enlightened Paul, and through him Luke? It is either completely blotted out, as if by some deluge--being obliterated by the inundation of falsifiers--in which case even Marcion does not possess the true Gospel; or else, is that very edition which Marcion alone possesses the true one, that is, of the apostles? How, then, does that agree with ours, which is said not to be the work of apostles, but of Luke?
Or else, again, if that which Marcion uses is not to be attributed to Luke simply because it does agree with ours which, of course, 18 is, also adulterated in its title , then it is the work of apostles. Our Gospel, therefore, which is in agreement with it, is equally the work of apostles, but also adulterated in its title. We must follow, then, the clue 20 of our discussion, meeting every effort of our opponents with reciprocal vigor.
I say that my Gospel is the true one; Marcion, that his is. I affirm that Marcion's Gospel is adulterated; Marcion, that mine is. Now what is to settle the point for us, except it be that principle 1 of time, which rules that the authority lies with that which shall be found to be more ancient; and assumes as an elemental truth, 2 that corruption of doctrine belongs to the side which shall be convicted of comparative lateness in its origin. A thing must exist prior to its suffering any casualty; 5 and an object 6 must precede all rivalry to itself.
Else how absurd it would be, that, when we have proved our position to be the older one, and Marcion's the later, ours should yet appear to be the false one, before it had even received from truth its objective existence; 7 and Marcion's should also be supposed to have experienced rivalry at our hands, even before its publication; and, in fine, that that should be thought to be the truer position which is the later one--a century 8 later than the publication of all the many and great facts and records of the Christian religion, which certainly could not have been published without, that is to say, before, the truth of the gospel.
With regard, then, to the pending 9 question, of Luke's Gospel so far as its being the common property 10 of ourselves and Marcion enables it to be decisive of the truth, 11 that portion of it which we alone receive 12 is so much older than Marcion, that Marcion, himself once believed it, when in the first warmth of faith he contributed money to the Catholic church, which along with himself was afterwards rejected, 13 when he fell away from our truth into his own heresy.
What if the Marcionites have denied that he held the primitive faith amongst ourselves, in the face even of his own letter?
What, if they do not acknowledge the letter? They, at any rate, receive his Antitheses; and more than that, they make ostentatious use 14 of them. Proof out of these is enough for me. For if the Gospel, said to be Luke's which is current amongst us 15 we shall see whether it be also current with Marcion , is the very one which, as Marcion argues in his Antitheses, was interpolated by the defenders of Judaism, for the purpose of such a conglomeration with it of the law and the prophets as should enable them out of it to fashion their Christ, surely he could not have so argued about it, unless he had found it in such a form.
No one censures things before they exist, 16 when he knows not whether they will come to pass. Emendation never precedes the fault. To be sure, 17 an amender of that Gospel, which had been all topsy-turvy 18 from the days of Tiberius to those of Antoninus, first presented himself in Marcion alone--so long looked for by Christ, who was all along regretting that he had been in so great a hurry to send out his apostles without the support of Marcion!
But for all that, 19 heresy, which is for ever mending the Gospels, and corrupting them in the act, is an affair of man's audacity, not of God's authority; and if Marcion be even a disciple, he is yet not "above his master;" 20 if Marcion be an apostle, still as Paul says, "Whether it be I or they, so we preach;" 21 if Marcion be a prophet, even "the spirits of the prophets will be subject to the prophets," 22 for they are not the authors of confusion, but of peace; or if Marcion be actually an angel, he must rather be designated "as anathema than as a preacher of the gospel," 23 because it is a strange gospel which he has preached.
So that, whilst he amends, he only confirms both positions: both that our Gospel is the prior one, for he amends that which he has previously fallen in with; and that that is the later one, which, by putting it together out of the emendations of ours, he has made his own Gospel, and a novel one too. On the whole, then, if that is evidently more true which is earlier, if that is earlier which is from the very beginning, if that is from the beginning which has the apostles for its authors, then it will certainly be quite as evident, that that comes down from the aposties, which has been kept as a sacred deposit 1 in the churches of the apostles.
Let us see what milk the Corinthians drank from Paul; to what rule of faith the Galatians were brought for correction; what the Philippians, the Thessalonians, the Ephesians read by it; what utterance also the Romans give, so very near 2 to the apostles , to whom Peter and Paul conjointly 3 bequeathed the gospel even sealed with their own blood.
We have also St. John's foster churches. In the same manner is recognised the excellent source 6 of the other churches. I say, therefore, that in them and not simply such of them as were rounded by apostles, but in all those which are united with them in the fellowship of the mystery of the gospel of Christ 7 that Gospel of Luke which we are defending with all our might has stood its ground from its very first publication; whereas Marcion's Gospel is not known to most people, and to none whatever is it known without being at the same time 8 condemned.
It too, of course, 9 has its churches, but specially its own--as late as they are spurious; and should you want to know their original, 10 you will more easily discover apostasy in it than apostolicity, with Marcion forsooth as their founder, or some one of Marcion's swarm. The same authority of the apostolic churches will afford evidence 13 to the other Gospels also, which we possess equally through their means, 14 and according to their usage--I mean the Gospels of John and Matthew--whilst that which Mark published may be affirmed to be Peter's 15 whose interpreter Mark was.
For even Luke's form 16 of the Gospel men unsually ascribe to Paul. Well, then, Marcion ought to be called to a strict account 19 concerning these other Gospels also, for having omitted them, and insisted in preference 20 on Luke; as if they, too, had not had free course in the churches, as well as Luke's Gospel, from the beginning. Nay, it is even more credible that they 21 existed from the very beginning; for, being the work of apostles, they were prior, and coeval in origin with 22 the churches themselves.
But how comes it to pass, if the apostles published nothing, that their disciples were more forward in such a work; for they could not have been disciples, without any instruction from their masters?
If, then, it be evident that these Gospels also were current in the churches, why did not Marcion touch them--either to amend them if they were adulterated, or to acknowledge them if they were uncorrupt?
For it is but natural 23 that they who were perverting the gospel, should be more solicitous about the perversion of those things whose authority they knew to be more generally received. Even the false apostles were so called on this very account, because they imitated the apostles by means of their falsification.
In as far, then, as he might have amended what there was to amend, if found corrupt, in so far did he firmly imply 24 that all was free from corruption which he did not think required amendment.
In short, 25 he simply amended what he thought was corrupt; though, indeed, not even this justly, because it was not really corrupt. For if the Gospels of the apostles 26 have come down to us in their integrity, whilst Luke's, which is received amongst us, 27 so far accords with their rule as to be on a par with them in permanency of reception in the churches, it clearly follows that Luke's Gospel also has come down to us in like integrity until the sacrilegious treatment of Marcion.
In short, when Marcion laid hands on it, it then became diverse and hostile to the Gospels of the apostles. I will therefore advise his followers, that they either change these Gospels, however late to do so, into a conformity with their own, whereby they may seem to be in agreement with the apostolic writings for they are daily retouching their work, as daily they are convicted by us ; or else that they blush for their master, who stands self- condemned 28 either way--when once 29 he hands on the truth of the gospel conscience smitten, or again 29 subverts it by shameless tampering.
Such are the summary arguments which we use, when we take up arms 1 against heretics for the faith 2 of the gospel, maintaining both that order of periods, which rules that a late date is the mark of forgers, 3 and that authority of churches 4 which lends support to the tradition of the apostles; because truth must needs precede the forgery, and proceed straight from those by whom it has been handed on.
But we now advance a step further on, and challenge as we promised to do the very Gospel of Marcion, with the intention of thus proving that it has been adulterated. For it is certain 5 that the whole aim at which he has strenuously laboured even in the drawing up of his Antitheses, centres in this, that he may establish a diversity between the Old and the New Testaments, so that his own Christ may be separate from the Creator, as belonging to this rival god, and as alien from the law and the prophets.
It is certain, also, that with this view 6 he has erased everything that was contrary to his own opinion and made for the Creator, as if it had been interpolated by His advocates, whilst everything which agreed with his own opinion he has retained. The latter statements we shall strictly examine; 7 and if they shall turn out rather for our side, and shatter the assumption of Marcion, we shall embrace them.
Five Books against Marcion, Books IV-V Adversus Marcionem