Early Church Fathers
Introductory Notice to the Five Books Against Marcion.
To the Right Rev. The Lord Bishop of Chester.
My Dear Lord,
I am gratified to have your permission to dedicate this volume to your Lordship. It is the fruit of some two years' leisure labour. Every man's occupation spares to him some lei/yana xro/nou; and thirty years ago you taught me, at Oxford, how to husband these opportunities in the pleasant studies of Biblical and Theological Science. For that and many other kindnesses I cannot cease to be thankful to you.
But, besides this private motive, I have in your Lordship's own past course an additional incentive for resorting to you on this occasion. You, until lately, presided over the theological studies of our great University; and you have given great encouragement to patristic literature by your excellent edition of the Apostolic Fathers.1 To whom could I more becomingly present this humble effort to make more generally known the great merits of perhaps the greatest work of the first of the Latin Fathers than to yourself?
I remain, with much respect,
My dear Lord,
Very faithfully yours,
Preface by the Translator.3
The reader has, in this volume a translation (attempted for the first time in English) of the largest of the extant works of the earliest Latin Fathers. The most important of Tertullian's writings have always been highly valued in the church, although, as was natural from their varied character, for different reasons. Thus his two best-known treatises, The Apology and The Prescription against Heretics, have divided between them for more than sixteen centuries the admiration of all intelligent readers,-the one for its masterly defence of the Christian religion against its heathen persecutors, and the other for its lucid vindication of the church's rule of faith against its heretical assailants. The present work has equal claims on the reader's appreciation, in respect of those qualities of vigorous thought, close reasoning, terse expression, and earnest purpose, enlivened by sparkling wit and impassioned eloquence, which have always secured for Tertullian, in spite of many drawbacks, the esteem which is given to a great and favourite author. If these books against Marcion have received, as indeed it must be allowed they have, less attention from the general reader than their intrinsic merit deserves, the neglect is mainly due to the fact that the interesting character of their contents is concealed by the usual title-page, which points only to a heresy supposed to be extinct and inapplicable, whether in the materials of its defence or confutation, to any modern circumstances. But many treatises of great authors, which have outlived their literal occasion, retain a value from their collateral arguments, which is not inferior to that effected by their primary subject, Such is the case with the work before us. If Marcionism is in the letter obsolete, there is its spirit still left in the church, which in more ways than one develops its ancient characteristics. What these were, the reader will soon discover in this volume; but reference may be made even here, in passing, to that prominent aim of the heresy which gave Tertullian his opportunity of proving the essential coherence of the Old and the New Testaments, and of exhibiting both his great knowledge of the details of Holy Scripture, and his fine intelligence of the progressive nature of God's revelation as a whole. This constitutes the charm of the present volume, which might almost be designated a Treatise on the Connection between the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures. How interesting this subject is to earnest men of the present age, is proved by the frequent treatment of it in our religious literature.4 In order to assist the reader to a more efficient use of this volume, in reference to its copiousness of Scripture illustration, a full Index of Scriptural Passages has been drawn up. Another satisfactory result will, it is believed, accompany the reading of this volume, in the evidence which it affords of the venerable catholicity of that system of biblical and dogmatic truth which constitutes the belief of what is called the "orthodox" Christian of the present day. Orthodoxy has been impugned of late, as if it had suffered much deterioration in its transmission to us; and an advanced school of thinkers has demanded its reform by a manipulation which they have called "free handling." To such readers, then, as prize the deposit of the Christian creed which they have received, in the light of St. Jude's description, as "the faith once for all delivered to the saints," it cannot but prove satisfactory to be able to trace in Tertullian, writing more than sixteen centuries ago, the outlines of their own cherished convictions-held by one who cannot be charged with too great an obsequiousness to traditional authority, and who at the same time possessed honesty, earnestness, and intelligence enough to make him an unexceptionable witness to facts of such a kind. The translator would only add, that he has, in compliance with the wise canon laid down by the editors of this series, endeavoured always to present to the reader the meaning of the author in readable English, keeping as near as idiomatic rules allowed to the sense and even style of the original. Amidst the many well-known difficulties of Tertullian's writings (and his Anti-Marcion is not exempt from any of these difficulties,5 ) the translator cannot hope that he has accomplished his labour without mistakes, for which he would beg the reader's indulgence. He has, however, endeavoured to obviate the inconvenience of faulty translation by quoting in foot-notes all words, phrases, and passages which appeared to him difficult.6 He has also added such notes as seemed necessary to illustrate the author's argument, or to explain any obscure allusions. The translation has been made always from Oehler's edition, with the aid of his scholarly Index Verborum. Use has also been made of Semler's edition, and the variorum reprint of the AbbT Migne, the chief result of which recension has been to convince the translator of the great superiority and general excellence of Oehler's edition. When he had completed two-thirds of his work, he happened to meet with the French translation of Tertullian by Mon. Denain, in Genoude's series, Les Pères de l'Eglise, published some twenty-five years ago. This version, which runs in fluent language always, is very unequal in its relation to the original: sometimes it has the brevity of an abridgment, sometimes the fulness of a paraphrase. Often does it miss the author's point, and never does it keep his style. The Abbé Migne correctly describes it: "Elegans potius quam fidissimus interpres, qui Africanµ loquelµ asperitatem splendenti ornavit sermone, egregiaque interdum et ad vivum expressa interpretatione recreavit."