Tertullian: Against Marcion. Book V. 8:7-12
Seeing as the Creator especially promised the gift of the Spirit in the latter days; and moreover Christ appeared in these latter days as the dispenser of spiritual gifts to which the apostle says, ”But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent His Son,”1 and again, ”Because the time is now in short supply”,2 and it is evident that this gift of the Spirit leads with praises towards Christ. Now compare the types between the apostles and Isaiah: “To one is given”, he says, “by the Spirit the word of wisdom;” and Isaiah steadfastly prefers the spirit of wisdom. “To another, the word of knowledge;” this will be the spirit of understanding and counsel. “To another, faith by the same Spirit;” this will be the spirit of holiness3 and fear of the Lord. “To another, the gifts of healing, and to another the working of miracles;” this will be the power of might. “To another prophecy, to another another discerning of spirits, to another various kinds of languages, to another the interpretation of languages;” this will be the spirit of knowledge.4 See how the apostle is bringing together and developing the concept of one spirit and in the prophet’s precise way that applies about interpreting. I can say this very thing that he has harmonized throughout the many and diverse members of our body the unity of the various gifts into a structured form, and on the same theme he shows the Lord in regards to the human body and Holy Spirit, which he did not want the merits of the gifts to be in the context of a spiritual body, nor did he establish such things in the context of a human body in relation to love, which is naturally put ahead too over all the other gifts. This guided the apostle as the lead principle to be established and because Christ esteemed this: “You shall love your neighbour as your own self.”5
When he mentions that it is written in the Law, he is recalling the Creator is going to proceed to speak in other languages and lips, he validates this reference with the gift of languages — a different gift here of the Creator cannot be shown with special mention. Equally so, this apostle recommends silence of the women in the Church, nor that women should speak anything specifically for the reason that a male is going to learn, (yet shows the right for the ability to prophesy is currently also given to the female participant, he additionally assigns a veil with with the woman who prophesies), he reinforces from the Law the responsibility of the woman is someone who ought to be subordinate, which, let me say once for all, that he ought not to know [what the woman is teaching] except for its repudiation.6 Let us now move from the spiritual things, the matters themselves ought to prove which of us blindly claims his god, and whether it is possible to oppose against our side, and even if the Creator promised these things for His Christ who had not yet been revealed, as being only destined to the Jews, getting ready to have His works in His time, in His Christ, and in His people. Marcion is then to exhibit gifts from his god, some prophets, who nevertheless have spoken not from the human sense, but by the spirit of God, which the things to come are going to be proclaimed, and the secrets of the heart are going to be exposed.7 He is probably showing some type of psalm, vision, prayer, merely a spiritual thing, in ecstasy, that is in madness,8 as if an interpretation of languages had occurred.9 Let him show to me also a woman who exaggerates among them that can prophesy according to those most sacred women10 If all these things are being easily made known by me, and by all means these things work together in one accord as a basic principles, the construct of the arguments, and teachings of the Creator, without doubt Christ, the Spirit, and the apostle will be of my God. It contains my statement that anyone would have been certain to examine.
Partially translated and revised by Charles A. Sullivan. Some portions are directly taken from the translation by Peter Holmes’ found in the Ante–Nicene Fathers. Vol. 3 (1885).
For the actual Latin text, click on the following link, Tertullian on Tongues: the Latin.
- Galatians 4:4
- ”Quia tempus iam in collecto est” — perhaps from I Cor. 7:29 “hoc itaque dic fratres tempus breve est”
- This is an abbreviated version of Luke 10:27 “diliges Dominum Deum tuum ex toto corde tuo et ex tota anima tua et ex omnibus viribus tuis et ex omni mente tua et proximum tuum tua et proximum tuum sicut te ipsum.”
- nosse non debuit nisi in destructionem
- cordis occulta traduxerint
- Tertullian is mocking the form of worship as lacking structure and simply creating stupidity and senselessness like the ancient Greek prophets. It is trying to be spiritual but lacks any definition.
- ex illis suis sanctioribus feminis — I think this is not be taken literally but referring to a religious order of women but lack information to be conclusive about this
2 thoughts on “Tertullian on Tongues: a New English Translation”
I think that your interpretation of Tertullian, making him out to rail against the Marcionites because they are acting too much like the Greek prophets, is worth challenging.
1. I haven’t seen any source that describes the Marcionites as fond of ecstatic experiences (It seems their arguments were mostly based on their critique of the Scriptures.), whereas the Montanists (which Tertullian was a part of about this time) were (I know you are well aware of how Eusebius describes Montanus.).
2. Tertullian’s polemic against the Marcionites in this section is primarily that they had no prophets to predict their [version of] Christ’s coming, whereas the Creator God (as Marcionites reject the notion of the Creator God being the Father of Jesus) of the Old Testament predicted Christ’s coming. He further demonstrates that Paul agrees with Isaiah regarding the gifts and that the gifts were passed on by Christ (having ceased from among the Jews) to the the apostles and to the subsequent church. (The order of women in the Marcionite sect really does not seem to be a major theme in Tertullian’s polemic but incidental to his quoting from 1 Corinthians regarding spiritual gifts.) In the next section, he even sums up his previous argument, “Meanwhile the Marcionite will exhibit nothing of this kind; he is by this time afraid to say which side has the better right to a Christ who is not yet revealed. Just as my Christ is to be expected, who was predicted from the beginning, so his Christ therefore has no existence, as not having been announced from the beginning. Ours is a better faith, which believes in a future Christ, than the heretic’s, which has none at all to believe in.”
I suspect you are referring to another article based on this translation, Tertullian on the Doctrine of Tongues. You make some good observations about the Marcionists that require a further look.
Thanks for pointing this out.