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  • General Reply to Sundry of Marcion's Heresies.

    Book V.—General Reply to Sundry of Marcion’s Heresies.1625

    1625 I make no apology for the ruggedness of the versification and the obscurity of the sense in this book, further than to say that the state of the Latin text is such as to render it almost impossible to find any sense at all in many places, while the grammar and metre are not reducible to any known laws.  It is about the hardest and most uninteresting book of the five.

    The first Book did the enemy’s words recall

    In order, which the senseless renegade

    Composed and put forth lawlessly; hence, too,

    Touched briefly flesh’s hope, Christ’s victory,

    5  And false ways’ speciousness.  The next doth teach

    The Law’s conjoined mysteries, and what

    In the new covenant the one God hath

    Delivered.  The third shows the race, create

    From freeborn mother, to be ministers

    10  Sacred to seers and patriarchs;1626

    1626 Or, “consecrated by seers and patriarchs.”

    whom Thou,

    O Christ, in number twice six out of all,1627

    1627 i.e., all the number of Thy disciples.

    Chosest; and, with their names, the lustral1628

    1628 Tempora lustri, i.e., apparently the times during which these “elders” (i.e., the bishops, of whom a list is given at the end of book iii.) held office.  “Lustrum” is used of other periods than it strictly implies, and this seems to give some sense to this difficult passage.


    Of our own elders noted, (times preserved

    On record,) showing in whose days appeared

    15  The author1629

    1629 i.e., Marcion.

    of this wickedness, unknown,

    Lawless, and roaming, cast forth1630

    1630 i.e., excommunicated.

    with his brood.

    The fourth, too, the piacular rites recalls

    Of the old Law themselves, and shows them types

    In which the Victim True appeared, by saints

    20  Expected long since, with the holy Seed.

    This fifth doth many twists and knots untie,

    Rolls wholly into sight what ills soe’er

    Were lurking; drawing arguments, but not

    Without attesting prophet.

    And although

    25  With strong arms fortified we vanquish foes,

    Yet hath the serpent mingled so at once

    All things polluted, impious, unallowed,

    Commaculate,—the blind’s path without light!

    A voice contaminant!—that, all the while

    30  We are contending the world’s Maker is

    Himself sole God, who also spake by voice

    Of seers, and proving that there is none else

    Unknown; and, while pursuing Him with praise,

    Who is by various endearment1631

    1631 Complexu vario.


    35  Are blaming—among other fallacies—

    The Unknown’s tardy times:  our subject’s fault

    Will scarce keep pure our tongue.  Yet, for all that,

    Guile’s many hidden venoms us enforce

    (Although with double risk1632

    1632 Ancipiti quamquam cum crimine.  The last word seems almost ="discrimine;” just as our author uses “cerno” ="discerno.”

    ) to ope our words.

    40  Who, then, the God whom ye say is the true,

    Unknown to peoples, alien, in a word,

    To all the world?1633

    1633 Mundo.

      Him whom none knew before?

    Came he from high?  If ’tis his own1634

    1634 Cf. John i. 11, and see the Greek.

    he seeks,

    Why seek so late?  If not his own, why rob

    45  Bandit-like? and why ply with words unknown

    So oft throughout Law’s rein a People still

    Lingering ’neath the Law?  If, too, he comes

    To pity and to succour all combined,

    And to re-elevate men vanquisht quite

    50  By death’s funereal weight, and to release

    Spirit from flesh’s bond obscene, whereby

    The inner man (iniquitously dwarfed)

    Is held in check; why, then, so late appear

    His ever-kindness, duteous vigilance?

    55  How comes it that he ne’er at all before

    Offered himself to any, but let slip

    Poor souls in numbers?1635

    1635 Whether this be the sense I know not.  The passage is a mass of confusion.

    and then with his mouth

    Seeks to regain another’s subjects:  ne’er

    Expected; not known; sent into the orb.

    60  Seeking the “ewe” he had not lost before,

    The Shepherd ought1636

    1636 i.e., according to Marcion’s view.

    to have disrobed himself

    Of flesh, as if his victor-self withal

    Had ever been a spirit, and as such1637

    1637 i.e., as spirits, like himself.

    Willed to rescue all expelled souls,

    65  Without a body, everywhere, and leave

    The spoiled flesh to earth; wholly to fill

    The world1638

    1638 Mundum.

    on one day equally with corpses

    To leave the orb void; and to raise the souls

    To heaven.  Then would human progeny

    70  At once have ceased to be born; nor had

    Thereafter any scion of your1639

    1639 i.e., Marcionite.


    Been born, or spread a new pest1640

    1640 See book ii. 3.

    o’er the orb.

    Or (since at that time1641

    1641 i.e., apparently on the day of Christ’s resurrection.

    none of all these things

    Is shown to have been done) he should have set

    75  A bound to future race; with solid heart

    Nuptial embraces would he, in that case

    Have sated quite;1642

    1642 Replesset, i.e., replevisset.  If this be the right reading, the meaning would seem to be, “would have taken away all further desire for” them, as satiety or repletion takes away all appetite for food.  One is almost inclined to hazard the suggestion “represset,” i.e., repressisset, “he would have repressed,” but that such a contraction would be irregular.  Yet, with an author who takes such liberties as the present one, perhaps that might not be a decisive objection.

    made men grow torpid, reft

    Of fruitful seed; made irksome intercourse

    With female sex; and closed up inwardly

    80  The flesh’s organs genital:  our mind

    Had had no will, no potent faculty

    Our body:  after this the “inner man”

    Could withal, joined with blood,1643

    1643 “Junctus,” for the edd.’s “junctis,” which, if retained, will mean “in the case of beings still joined with (or to) blood.”

    have been infused

    And cleaved to flesh, and would have ever been

    85  Perishing.  Ever perishes the “ewe:”

    And is there then no power of saving her?

    Since man is ever being born beneath

    Death’s doom, what is the Shepherd’s work, if thus

    The “ewe” is stated1644

    1644 “Docetur,” for the edd.’s “docentur.”  The sense seems to be, if there be any, exceedingly obscure; but for the idea of a half-salvation—the salvation of the “inner man” without the outer—being no salvation at all, and unworthy of “the Good Shepherd” and His work, we may compare the very difficult passage in the de Pudic., c. xiii. ad fin.

    to be found?  Unsought

    90  In that case, but not rescued, she is proved.

    But now choice is allowed of entering

    Wedlock, as hath been ever; and that choice

    Sure progeny hath yoked:  nations are born

    And folk scarce numerable, at whose birth

    95  Their souls by living bodies are received;

    Nor was it meet that Paul (though, for the time,

    He did exhort some few, discerning well

    The many pressures of a straitened time)

    To counsel men in like case to abide

    100  As he himself:1645

    1645 This sense, which I deduce from a transposition of one line and the supplying of the words “he did exhort,” which are not expressed, but seem necessary, in the original, agrees well with 1 Cor. vii., which is plainly the passage referred to.

      for elsewhere he has bidden

    The tender ages marry, nor defraud

    Each other, but their compact’s dues discharge.

    But say, whose suasion hath, with fraud astute,

    Made you “abide,” and in divided love

    105  Of offspring live secure, and commit crime

    Adulterous, and lose your life? and, though

    ’Tis perishing, belie (by verbal name)

    That fact.  For which cause all the so sweet sounds

    Of his voice pours he forth, that “you must do,

    110  Undaunted, whatsoever pleases you;”

    Outwardly chaste, stealthily stained with crime!

    Of honourable wedlock, by this plea,1646

    1646 “Causa;” or perhaps “means.”  It is, of course, the French “chose.”

    He hath deprived you.  But why more?  ’Tis well

    (Forsooth) to be disjoined! for the world, too,

    115  Expedient ’tis! lest any of your seed

    Be born!  Then will death’s organs1647

    1647 i.e., you and your like, through whom sin, and in consequence death, is disseminated.

    cease at length!

    The while you hope salvation to retain,

    Your “total man” quite loses part of man,

    With mind profane:  but neither is man said

    120  To be sole spirit, nor the flesh is called

    “The old man;” nor unfriendly are the flesh

    And spirit, the true man combined in one,

    The inner, and he whom you call “old foe;”1648

    1648 Here, again, for the sake of the sense, I have transposed a line.

    Nor are they seen to have each his own set

    125  Of senses.  One is ruled; the other rules,

    Groans, joys, grieves, loves; himself1649

    1649 i.e., “the other,” the “inner man,” or spirit.

    to his own flesh

    Most dear, too; through which1650

    1650 i.e., through flesh.

    his humanity

    Is visible, with which commixt he is

    Held ever:  to its wounds he care applies;

    130  And pours forth tears; and nutriments of food

    Takes, through its limbs, often and eagerly:

    This hopes he to have ever with himself

    Immortal; o’er its fracture doth he groan;

    And grieves to quit it limb by limb:  fixt time

    135  Death lords it o’er the unhappy flesh; that so

    From light dust it may be renewed, and death

    Unfriendly fail at length, when flesh, released,

    Rises again.  This will that victory be

    Supreme and long expected, wrought by Him,

    140  The aye-to-be-revered, who did become

    True man; and by His Father’s virtue won:

    Who man’s redeemed limbs unto the heavens

    Hath raised,1651

    1651 i.e., in His own person.

    and richly opened access up

    Thither in hope, first to His nation; then

    145  To those among all tongues in whom His work

    Is ever doing:  Minister imbued

    With His Sire’s parent-care, seen by the eye

    Of the Illimitable, He performed,

    By suffering, His missions.1652

    1652 I hope I have succeeded in giving some intelligible sense; but the passage as it stands in the Latin is nearly hopeless.

    What say now

    150  The impious voices? what th’ abandoned crew?

    If He Himself, God the Creator’s self,

    Gave not the Law,1653

    1653 I read “legem” for “leges.”

    He who from Egypt’s vale1654

    1654 I read “valle” for “calle.”

    Paved in the waves a path, and freely gave

    The seats which He had said of old, why comes

    155  He in that very People and that land

    Aforesaid? and why rather sought He not

    Some other1655

    1655 Alios.

    peoples or some rival1656

    1656 Altera.


    Why, further, did He teach that, through the seers,

    (With Name foretold in full, yet not His own,)

    160  He had been often sung of?  Whence, again,

    Could He have issued baptism’s kindly gifts,

    Promised by some one else, as His own works?

    These gifts men who God’s mandates had transgressed,

    And hence were found polluted, longed for,

    165  And begged a pardoning rescue from fierce death.

    Expected long, they1657

    1657 i.e., “the gifts of baptism.”

    came:  but that to those

    Who recognised them when erst heard, and now

    Have recognised them, when in due time found,

    Christ’s true hand is to give them, this, with voice

    170  Paternal, the Creator-Sire Himself

    Warns ever from eternity, and claims;

    And thus the work of virtue which He framed,

    And still frames, arms, and fosters, and doth now

    Victorious look down on and reclothe

    175  With His own light, should with perennial praise


    1658 This seems to give sense to a very obscure passage, in which I have been guided more by Migne’s pointing than by Oehler’s.


    1659 I read here “quid” for “quod.”

    hath the Living Power done

    To make men recognise what God can give

    And man can suffer, and thus live?1660

    1660 i.e., to make men live by recognising that.  Comp. the Psalmist’s prayer:  “Give me understanding and I shall live” (Ps. cxix. 144; in LXX., Ps. cxviii. 144).

      But since

    Neither predictions earlier nor facts

    180  The latest can suede senseless frantic1661

    1661 The “furentes” of Pam. and Rig. is preferred to Oehler’s “ferentes.”


    That God became a man, and (after He

    Had suffered and been buried) rose; that they

    May credit those so many witnesses


    1662 “Complexis,” lit. “embracing.”

    who of old did cry aloud

    185  With heavenly word, let them both1663

    1663 i.e., both Jews and Gentile heretics, the “senseless frantic men” just referred to probably:  or possibly the “ambo” may mean “both sects,” viz., the Marcionites and Manichees, against whom the writer whom Oehler supposes to be the probable author of these “Five Books,” Victorinus, a rhetorician of Marseilles, directed his efforts.  But it may again be the acc. neut. pl., and mean “let them”—i.e., the “senseless frantic men”—“learn to believe as to both facts,” i.e., the incarnation and the resurrection; (see vers. 179, 180;) “the testimony at least of human reason.”

    learn to trust

    At least terrestrial reason.

    When the Lord

    Christ came to be, as flesh, born into the orb

    In time of king Augustusreign at Rome,

    First, by decree, the nations numbered are

    190  By census everywhere:  this measure, then,

    This same king chanced to pass, because the


    Supreme, in whose high reigning hand doth lie

    The king’s heart, had impelled him:1664

    1664 I would suggest here, for

    “…quia summa voluntas

    In cujus manu regnantis cor legibus esset,”

    something like this,

    “…quia summa voluntas,

    In cujus manu regnantis cor regis, egisset,”

    which would only add one more to our author’s false quantities.  “Regum egisset” would avoid even that, while it would give some sense.  Comp. Prov. xxi. 1.

      he was first

    To do it, and the enrolment was reduced

    195  To orderly arrangement.  Joseph then

    Likewise, with his but just delivered wife


    1665 Maria cum conjuge feta.  What follows seems to decide the meaning of “feta,” as a child could hardly be included in a census before birth.

    with her celestial Son alike,

    Themselves withal are numbered.  Let, then, such

    As trust to instruments of human skill,

    200  Who may (approving of applying them

    As attestators of the holy word)

    Inquire into this census, if it be

    But found so as we say, then afterwards

    Repent they and seek pardon while time still

    205  Is had1666

    1666 Again I have had to attempt to amend the text of the Latin in order to extract any sense, and am far from sure that I have extracted the right one.

    The Jews, who own1667

    1667 “Fatentur,” unless our author use it passively ="are confessed.”

    to having wrought

    A grave crime, while in our disparagement

    They glow, and do resist us, neither call

    Christ’s family unknown, nor can1668

    1668 “Possunt,” i.e., probably “have the hardihood.”


    They hanged a man, who spake truth, on a tree:1669

    1669 Because Christ plainly, as they understood Him, “made Himself the Son of God;” and hence, if they confessed that He had said the truth, and yet that they hanged Him on a tree, they would be pronouncing their own condemnation.

    210  Ignorant that the Lord’s flesh which they bound1670

    1670 “Vinctam” for “victam” I read here.

    Was not seed-gendered.  But, while partially

    They keep a reticence, so partially

    They triumph; for they strive to represent

    God to the peoples commonly as man.

    215  Behold the error which o’ercomes you both!1671

    1671 i.e., you and the Jews.  See above on 185.

    This error will our cause assist, the while,

    We prove to you those things which certain are.

    They do deny Him God; you falsely call

    Him man, a body bodiless! and ah!

    220  A various insanity of mind

    Sinks you; which him who hath presumed to hint

    You both do, sinking, sprinkle:1672

    1672 Quod qui præsumpsit mergentes spargitis ambo.  What the meaning is I know not, unless it be this:  if any one hints to you that you are in an error which is sinking you into perdition, you both join in trying to sink him (if “mergentes” be active; or “while you are sinking,” if neuter), and in sprinkling him with your doctrine (or besprinkling him with abuse).

      for His deeds

    Will then approve Him man alike and God

    Commingled, and the world1673

    1673 Mundus.

    will furnish signs

    225  No few.

    While then the Son Himself of God

    Is seeking to regain the flesh’s limbs,1674

    1674 “Dum carnis membra requirit,” i.e., seeking to regain for God all the limbs of the flesh as His instruments.  Comp. Rom. vi. 13; 19.

    Already robed as King, He doth sustain

    Blows from rude palms; with spitting covered is

    His face; a thorn-inwoven crown His head

    230  Pierces all round; and to the tree1675

    1675 Ligno.


    Is fixed; wine drugged with myrrh,1676

    1676 “Scriblita,” a curious word.

    is drunk, and gall1677

    1677 Fel miscetur aceto.  The reading may have arisen—and it is not confined to our author—from confounding ὄξος with οἶνος.  Comp. Matt. xxvii. 33 with Mark xv. 23.

    Is mixt with vinegar; parted His robe,1678

    1678 This is an error, if the “coat” be meant.

    And in it1679

    1679 Perhaps for “in illa” we should read “in illam”—“on it,” for “in it.”

    lots are cast; what for himself

    Each one hath seized he keeps; in murky gloom,

    235  As God from fleshly body silently

    Outbreathes His soul, in darkness trembling day

    Took refuge with the sun; twice dawned one day;

    Its centre black night covered:  from their base

    Mounts move in circle, wholly moved was earth,

    240  Saintssepulchres stood ope, and all things joined

    In fear to see His passion whom they knew!

    His lifeless side a soldier with bare spear

    Pierces, and forth flows blood, nor water less

    Thence followed.  These facts they1680

    1680 The Jews.

    agree to hide,

    245  And are unwilling the misdeed to own,

    Willing to blink the crime.

    Can spirit, then,

    Without a body wear a robe? or is’t

    Susceptible of penalty? the wound

    Of violence does it bear? or die? or rise?

    250  Is blood thence poured? from what flesh. since ye say

    He had none? or else, rather, feigned He? if

    ’Tis safe for you to say so; though you do

    (Headlong) so say, by passing over more

    In silence.  Is not, then, faith manifest?

    255  And are not all things fixed?  The day before

    He then1681

    1681 For “ante diem quam cum pateretur” I have read “qua tum.”

    should suffer, keeping Passover,

    And handing down a memorable rite1682

    1682 Or, “deed”—“factum.”

    To His disciples, taking bread alike

    And the vine’s juice, “My body, and My blood

    260  Which is poured1683

    1683 Or, “is being poured”—“funditur.”

    for you, this is,” did He say;

    And bade it ever afterward be done.

    Of what created elements were made,

    Think ye, the bread and wine which were (He said)

    His body with its blood? and what must be

    265  Confessed?  Proved He not Himself the world’s1684

    1684 Mundi.

    Maker, through deeds? and that He bore at once

    A body formed from flesh and blood?

    This God

    This true Man, too, the Father’s Virtue ’neath

    An Image,1685

    1685 I read with Migne, “Patris sub imagine virtus,” in preference to the conjecture which Oehler follows, “Christi sub imagine virtus.”  The reference seems clearly to be to Heb. i. 3.

    with the Father ever was,

    270  United both in glory and in age;1686

    1686 Ævo.  Perhaps here ="eternity.”

    Because alone He ministers the words

    Of the All-Holder; whom He1687

    1687 i.e., “The All-Holder.”

    upon earth


    1688 Capit.

    through whom He all things did create:

    God’s Son, God’s dearest Minister, is He!

    275  Hence hath He generation, hence Name too,

    Hence, finally, a kingdom; Lord from Lord;

    Stream from perennial Fount!  He, He it was

    Who to the holy fathers (whosoe’er

    Among them doth profess to have “seen God1689

    1689 Cf. Jacob’s words in Gen. xxxii. 30; Manoah’s in Judg. xiii. 22; etc.


    280  God is our witness—since the origin

    Of this our world,1690

    1690 Mundi.

    appearing, opened up

    The Father’s words of promise and of charge

    From heaven high:  He led the People out;

    Smote through th’iniquitous nation; was Himself

    285  The column both of light and of cloud’s shade;

    And dried the sea; and bids the People go

    Right through the waves, the foe therein involved

    And covered with the flood and surge:  a way

    Through deserts made He for the followers

    290  Of His high biddings; sent down bread in showers1691

    1691 For “dimisit in umbris” I read here “demisit in imbris.”  If we retain the former reading, it will then mean, “dispersed during the shades of night,” during which it was that the manna seems always to have fallen.

    From heaven for the People; brake the rock;

    Bedewed with wave the thirsty;1692

    1692 “Sitientis” in Oehler must be a misprint for “sitientes.”

    and from God

    The mandate of the Law to Moses spake

    With thunder, trumpet-sound, and flamey column

    295  Terrible to the sight, while men’s hearts shook.

    After twice twenty years, with months complete,

    Jordan was parted; a way oped; the wave

    Stood in a mass; and the tribes shared the land,

    Their fathers’ promised boons!  The Father’s word,

    300  Speaking Himself by prophets’ mouth, that He1693

    1693 There ought to be a “se” in the Latin if this be the meaning.

    Would come to earth and be a man, He did

    Predict; Christ manifestly to the earth


    Then, expected for our aid,

    Life’s only Hope, the Cleanser of our flesh,1694

    1694 For “Mundator carnis seræ” ="the Cleanser of late flesh” (which would seem, if it mean anything, to mean that the flesh had to wait long for its cleansing), I have read “carnis nostræ.”

    305  Death’s Router, from th’ Almighty Sire’s empire

    At length He came, and with our human limbs

    He clothed Him.  Adamvirgindragontree,1695

    1695 Lignum.

    The cause of ruin, and the way whereby

    Rash death us all had vanquisht! by the same

    310  Our Shepherd treading, seeking to regain

    His sheep—with angelvirgin—His own flesh

    And the “tree’s” remedy;1696

    1696 I have followed the disjointed style of the Latin as closely as I could here.

    whence vanquisht man

    And doomed to perish was aye wont to go

    To meet his vanquisht peers; hence, interposed,

    315  One in all captives’ room, He did sustain

    In body the unfriendly penalty

    With patience; by His own death spoiling death;

    Becomes salvation’s cause; and, having paid

    Throughly our debts by throughly suffering

    320  On earth, in holy body, everything,

    Seeks the infern! here souls, bound for their crime,

    Which shut up all together by Law’s weight,

    Without a guard,1697

    1697 Here we seem to see the idea of the “limbus patrum.”

    were asking for the boons

    Promised of old, hoped for, and tardy, He

    325  To the saintsrest admitted, and, with light,

    Brought back.  For on the third day mounting up,1698

    1698 “Subiens” ="going beneath,” i.e., apparently coming beneath the walls of heaven.

    A victor, with His body by His Sire’s

    Virtue immense, (salvation’s pathway made,)

    And bearing God and man is form create,

    330  He clomb the heavens, leading back with Him

    Captivity’s first-fruits (a welcome gift

    And a dear figure1699

    1699 i.e., a figure of the future harvest.

    to the Lord), and took

    His seat beside light’s Father, and resumed

    The virtue and the glory of which, while

    335  He was engaged in vanquishing the foe

    He had been stripped;1700

    1700 I have hazarded the conjecture “minutus” here for the edd.’s “munitus.”  It adds one more, it is true, to our author’s false quantities, but that is a minor difficulty, while it improves (to my mind) the sense vastly.

    conjoined with Spirit; bound

    With flesh, on our part.  Him, Lord, Christ, King, God,

    Judgment and kingdom given to His hand,

    The father is to send unto the orb.



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