In this short post I will be citing a portion from Ernest Evans’ English rendering of Tertullian’s refutation Marcion since the translator has an interesting footnote informing whom the early church fathers and writers believed was the God that the Old Testament saints saw.
Here is the relevant section from Tertullian’s reply:
27. Now at length—that I may dispose of the rest of these questions in one single answer—for all those details which you class together as petty and weak and unworthy, with intent to drag the Creator down, I shall set before you a straightforward and definite reason: it is that God would not have been able to enter into converse with men except by taking to himself those human thoughts and feelings by which he might reduce the force of his majesty, which human mediocrity was utterly unable to bear, by virtue of a humility, unworthy indeed of himself but necessary for man, and consequently worthy even of God, since nothing is so worthy of God as the salvation of man. Of this I might have discoursed at greater length if I had been treating with heathens—although even with heretics the method of attack is not very different. But seeing that you yourselves have already stated your belief that a god has dwelt in human shape and in all the rest of what belongs to man’s estate, you will assuredly not demand any further persuasion that God has in fact made himself conformable to human condition, but are confuted by virtue of your own creed. For if a god—I mean that more lofty one—did with such great humility so lay low the high estate of his majesty as to make it subject to death, even the death of a cross, why should you not agree that to our God also some few pettinesses were not inappropriate, being in any case less intolerable than the revilings, the scaffolds, and the sepulchres of the Jews? Or is it not these same pettinesses which ought, without further discussion, to make it clear to you that the Christ who was made the sport of men’s passions belongs to that same God whose human appearances and activities are the object of your reproaches? For we claim also that Christ has always acted in God the Father’s name, has himself ever since the beginning associated with, and conversed with, patriarchs and prophets.1 He is the Son of the Creator, his Word whom by bringing him forth from himself he caused to be his Son. From then onwards he put him in authority over his whole design and purpose, reducing him a little below the angels,a as it is written in David. By this reduction he was brought by the Father to these (acts and experiences) which you disapprove of as human: for he was learning even from the beginning,2 by so early assuming manhood, to be that which he was going to be at the end. He it is who comes down (to inquire into Sodom), who asks questions (of Adam and of Gain), who makes request (of Moses), and swears with an oath. That the Father has become visible to no man is the testimony of that gospel which you share with us, in which Christ says, No one knoweth the Father save the Son.b It was he also who in the Old Testament had already declared, No man shall see God and live,c thus pronouncing that the Father cannot be seen, while with the Father’s authority and in his name he himself was the God who was seen, the Son of God. So too among us God is accepted in the person of Christ, because in this way also he belongs to us. Therefore all the (attributes and activities) you make requisition of as worthy of God are to be found in the Father, inaccessible to sight and contact, peaceable also, and, so to speak, a god philosophers can approve of: but all the things you repudiate as unworthy, are to be accounted to the Son, who was both seen and heard, and held converse, the Father’s agent and minister, who commingles in himself man and God, in the miracles God, in the pettinesses man, so as to add as much to man as he detracts from God. In fact the whole of that which in my God is dishonourable in your sight, is a sign and token of man’s salvation. God entered into converse with man, so that man might be taught how to act like God. God treated on equal terms with man, so that man might be able to treat on equal terms with God. God was found to be small, so that man might become very great. As you despise a God of that sort I wonder if you do honestly believe that God was crucified. How great then is your unreasonableness in the face of both one and the other of the Creator’s courses of action. You mark him down as a judge, yet the sternness which is natural to a judge in accordance with the demands of the cases before him you stigmatize as cruelty. You demand a God supremely good, yet that gentleness which is the natural outcome of his kindness, which has conversed at a lower level in such proportion as human insignificance could comprehend, you devalue as pettiness. He meets with your approval neither as great nor as small, neither as judge nor as friend. But what if these same characteristics are found to be in your god too? I have already, in the book assigned to him,3 proved that he is a judge, and as a judge necessarily stern, and as stern also cruel—if cruelty is the proper word.
27. 1 It was almost universally held, until the end of the fourth century, that the subject of the theophanies, the speaker of divine words throughout the Old Testament, was God the Son acting as the agent or messenger of the Father: Justin, dial. 56 sqq.; Tertullian, adv. Prax. 14-16; Eusebius, H.E. i. 2; Prudentius, Apotheosis (passim). (Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem (“Against Marcion”), translated by Ernest Evans, Book II, pp. 160-164 https://tertullian.org/articles/evans_marc/evans_marc_06book2_eng.htm; bold emphasis mine)
Pay attention to Evan’s claim that for first 300 hundred years it was virtually the unanimous testimony of the early church the that the Jehovah God who appeared visibly throughout the Old Testament period was actually the Lord Jesus Christ in his prehuman existence!
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Ignatius of Antioch’s Proclamation of the Essential Deity of Christ
Justin Martyr’s Witness to Christ’s essential and eternal Deity
IRENAEUS AND THE DEITY OF CHRIST
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Ante-Nicene Witness to Jesus’ Deity
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