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What Did Jesus Say? (2012) - 7 topics 

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Critic at Early Church History

I just read [i.e., on January 6, 2013] a critique of my use of Tertullian in Jesus' Words Only (chapter 16), my article Early Church View of Paul, and my synopsis of Marcionism - although the critic never links any of these pages to allow his reader to know what I actually do say.

This critique is at http://www.churchhistory101.com/feedback/tertullian-paul-marcionism.php

The critic's article is entitled " Why Does Tertullian Call Paul 'The Apostle of the Heretics?" 

Several times the author -- unidentified -- identifies me by name, and says that I am misleading. 

I will let the reader decide. 

Tertullian's Main Quote on Questioning Whether Jesus Truly Chose Paul as An Apostle

First, the unidentified critic admits that my main quote from Tertullian is correct. This is the quote in which Tertullian says he found nothing in the gospels that says Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ, and Paul's self-serving claim to being Jesus's apostle does not suffice as proof it is so. Thus, the critic admits:

"This is indeed a text from Tertullian's Against Marcion."

But then he does not deal with what it says, and tries to imply Tertullian said Paul was an apostle of Jesus -- which Tertullian never says in Against Marcion, and in fact in the quote at issue is refuting to be the case:

I desire to hear from Marcion the origin of Paul the apostle. I am a sort of new disciple, having had instruction from no other teacher. For the moment my only belief is that nothing ought to be believed without good reason, and that is believed without good reason which is believed without knowledge of its origin: and I must with the best of reasons approach this inquiry with uneasiness when I find one affirmed to be an apostle, of whom in the list of the apostles in the gospel I find no trace. So when I am told that he [i.e., Paul] was subsequently promoted by our Lord, by now at rest in heaven, I find some lack of foresight in the fact that Christ did not know beforehand that he would have need of him, but after setting in order the office of apostleship and sending them out upon their duties, considered it necessary, on an impulse and not by deliberation, to add another, by compulsion so to speak and not by design [i.e., on the Road to Damascus]. So then, shipmaster out of Pontus [i.e., Marcion], supposing you have never accepted into your craft any smuggled or illicit merchandise, have never appropriated or adulterated any cargo, and in the things of God are even more careful and trustworthy, will you please tell us under what bill of lading you accepted Paul as apostle, who had stamped him with that mark of distinction, who commended him to you, and who put him in your charge? Only so may you with confidence disembark him [i.e., Paul]: only so can he avoid being proved to belong to him who has put in evidence all the documents that attest his apostleship. He [i.e., Paul] himself, says Marcion, claims to be an apostle, and that not from men nor through any man, but through Jesus Christ. Clearly any man can make claims for himself: but his claim is confirmed by another person’s attestation. One person writes the document, another signs it, a third attests the signature, and a fourth enters it in the records. No man is for himself both claimant and witness. Besides this, you have found it written that many will come and say, I am Christ. If there is one that makes a false claim to be Christ, much more can there be one who professes that he is an apostle of Christ.... [L]et the apostle, belong to your other god:.... (Tertullian, Against Marcion (Oxford University Press, 1972) at 509, 511, reprinted online at  http://www.tertullian.org/articles/evans_marc/ evans_marc_12book5_eng.htm.)

The Church History critic does not discuss any of this quote to give context to his reader. Instead, the critic lifts other text which I included, and which I noted does not prove Tertullian says Paul is an apostle of Jesus, and the critic distorts it so that when Tertullian says Paul is 'mine' that this implies Tertullian believes Paul is Jesus' apostle -- which Tertullian never says nor does he imply that Paul is Jesus' apostle -- the question at issue. What the critic says in response is instead: 

If you read a bit further after this section of Book V you will read where Tertullian says: 

"I do not calumniate him whom I defend. I deny him to compel you to defend him. I deny him to convince you that he is mine....If you challenge us to your belief, tell us what things constitute its basis." 

Tertullian is using somewhat legal argumentation and rhetorical style to push against the position of Marcion. This is why we have to be careful when reading the early fathers - their writing methods are usually very different from what we are used to. 

This seems to be from www.jesuswordsonly.com
THIS is the problem with reading men like [the author of JWO] and David Bercot: they have an established theological position, a dogma, and they look for ANYTHING in the early church writings to bolster their position. These two men (and others like them) either have not read enough of the writings they cite OR they are purposefully misleading people. I would like to think it is the former; to purposefully mislead is to lie. 

However, I acknowledged this in my book from 2007. I made sure the reader knows that Tertullian  says Paul "is mine" but Tertullian never says this means Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ while trying for a long portion to harmonize Paul to Jesus.

I have almost an entire chapter on Tertullian -- chapter 16 -- online for six years now -- http://www.jesuswordsonly.com/books/jesuswordsonly/118-chapter-16-jwo.html

There you will read that I wrote:

Tertullian then goes on to prove that Paul is "his apostle" but only by Tertullian's elaborate effort to prove Paul does not contradict the twelve (i.e., Matthew and John). Tertullian's arguments in the balance of Book 5 of Against Marcion (as well as in Book I) reveal efforts to save Paul as the source of edifying material by harmonizing him with Jesus, as we shall see in the next section.

So this critic himself is misleading. I trust he is not lying. One has to fairly portray the entire picture of what I said, concede I raised points that might support an opposing conclusion, but then I already explained why that argument does not hold water. One cannot accuse me of lying [since removed by the critic after cordial discussion] by raising counter-arguments I mentioned in fairness, and then make it appear I overlooked such points when I in fairness did raise these issues and then rebutted them. 

Then I point out, but this unidentified critic never addresses:

Tertullian throughout Against Marcion shows how Marcion's understanding of Paul does not square with reason, Jesus, or Paul himself. Tertullian's approach is typically "Paul says this," but `you Marcion do not understand.' However, in a stretch of four chapters beginning at chapter 23 to chapter 27 of Book One, Tertullian does a 180 degree turn. He discusses doctrines of Marcion which come from Paul but Tertullian never mentions Paul. Then Tertullian crushes each doctrine in turn. The interesting thing is that each of these doctrines were unquestionably Pauline. However, Tertullian no longer could attack Marcion for taking Paul out of context or misunderstanding him. These topics that Tertullian attacked in chapters 23 through 27 were: salvation by faith alone, eternal security, predestination and total depravity. 

What was Tertullian's method in this regard? Instead of quoting Paul or using clearly Pauline verbiage, and then explaining his `true meaning,' Tertullian simply destroyed the substance behind all of Paul's major doctrines. Tertullian did so with logic and reason deduced from the nature of God revealed in Scripture. Paulinists today might not accept these deductions because Tertullian does not use our modern `citation' method to refute a point. However, the issue I am raising here is not to ask you to agree with Tertullian. Rather I ask you to acknowledge that the very early church was proving as heresy everything that Paulinists emphasize today as valid.

Then I provide an extensive series of quotes that show Tertullian refutes Marcion's ideas of faith alone, eternal security, predestination of the lost, etc. This proves how little anyone regarded Paul as of 207 AD.

The critic, after not fairly acknowledging I did address what he impliedly claimed I did not, asserts a quote that he thinks exonerates Paul in Tertullian's eyes as an apostle of Jesus Christ but it does not. The Early Church History critic writes:

Tertullian quotes from the apostle Paul in several writings, even in Against Marcion as mentioned above. He does so in positive ways that make it obvious that he, 
1. Views Paul as a legitimate apostle
2. Sees Paul's letters as inspired text 

"Rightly, then, did Peter and James and John give their right hand of fellowship to Paul, and agree on such a division of their work, as that Paul should go to the heathen, and themselves to the circumcision." Against Marcion V.3 

However, here the critic errs by not carefully reading Tertullian. Tertullian challenges whether Paul is one of the 12 apostles. Tertullian is clear that Paul is not; that a self-serving claim by Paul does not prove Paul is a true apostle. Also, Tertullian asks whether it makes any sense that Jesus had to pick another after He ascended into heaven.  (See the quote above.) Tertullian says it would reflect some lack of planning by our Lord. Also, in the quote below, Tertullian argues that Paul's behavior in Acts 15 was not one who was an equal apostle, but one who instead sought to have his doctrines confirmed by the 12 -- for Paul to see whether Paul himself went too far. So those critiques of Paul's apostleship are in the quotes on my webpage (see below) which the critic lifted the quote above which appears in chapter sixteen. (On this quote about Acts 15, see heading below Tertullian Does Refute Paul Was An Apostle Equal to The 12 Based Upon Acts.) And they are based on Tertullian's acceptance of Acts! But the critic has not absorbed the point.

Thus, Tertullian's statement that Peter and James and John "gave right hand of fellowship" to Paul does not imply they regarded him as an apostle of Jesus Christ. The critic errs by leaping to that conclusion. Tertullian's other words were too harsh, partly based upon Acts 15, to prove otherwise. And this was key to Tertullian's efforts to disprove Marcionism. For Marcion was claiming that Paul was the only true apostle.

To prove Tertullian believed Paul was an inspired apostle, the Church History critic also quotes chapter 15 from a totally different book of Tertullian's -- On Baptism. It is true that On Baptism speaks about Paul as an apostle which in Against Marcion Tertullian clearly refutes being proven or known. Thus, to know if this is relevant to interpret Against Marcion, one must know whether On Baptism came before or after Against Marcion. It turns out the critic improperly put weight on a book written earlier in time by Tertullian. The book On Baptism is placed as Tertullian's third book written, while Against Marcion is Tertullian's 23d or 24th book. See "Possible Chronology" in "Tertullian," Wikipedia. I wrote the same way about Paul as an apostle before I studied the issues raised by Tertullian in Against Marcion. Also, the critic is reading too much into quotations from On Baptism which Tertullian is making to prove Tertullian thought Paul was inspired when anyone can quote authors like Paul without making such an implied declamation. Here is the section where the critic at Early Church History discusses these so-called proofs -- offered without any active links to On Baptism which can be found here]:

I could cite many examples of Tertullian quoting Paul as inspired, but how about one clear example? 

On Baptism, chapter 15
There is to us one, and but one, baptism; as well according to the Lord's gospel as according to the apostle's letters, inasmuch as he says, "One God, and one baptism," and one church in the heavens. 

The most holy apostle has said, that "all things are lawful, but not all expedient." Ch 17]


What this critic's quote proves most of all is that the Church History critic could not find any comparable reference to Paul as "holy apostle" or "apostle" in Against Marcion. Thus, in a more mature and careful study, Tertullian did not repeat the "holy apostle" reference. Instead, as proven below, Tertullian now calls Paul the "apostle of the heretics."

What is also most revealing is the critic includes a quote from Chadwick's The Early Church (Penguin: 1993) at page 91 where Chadwick says that Tertullian's arguments inflict "discomfort on his adversaries but in such a manner as to embarass his friends and supporters." It appears that Chadwick realizes Tertullian's arguments not only skewer heretics but also simultaneously embarass those who wish to rely upon Paul. The Early Church Critic apparently is acknowledging this is a legitimate view, commenting on Chadwick to his email correspondent: "just as you have pointed out below -- he [i.e., Tertullian] seems to be attacking the real apostle Paul." So it appears the Church History critic realizes scholars like Chadwick believe Tertullian's criticism of extreme Paulinists like Marcion goes as far as to embarass those who wish to rely upon Paul as orthodox. 

Before I discuss in depth how Tertullian used Acts 15 to prove Paul was not an apostle on par with the twelve, and thus was simply a messenger (potentially a confusing one) - the loose non-title meaning of "apostlos," let's discuss the main point of the critic's article.

Apostle of the Heretics?

Next the critic takes on a passage where Tertullian says in Latin that Paul is the "apostle to the heretics." In 2010, when I first wrote the online article about this, I pointed out that it is mistranslated in one translation as "the apostle whom the heretics adopt." This critic lifts that quote I provided, then pretends that the lattter is unquestionably correct, and does not say "apostle of the heretics" -- and has the audacity to imply (a) I did not mention this alternative translation; (b) imply I am being deceptive; and (c) the critic omits that I asserted that "whom the heretics adopt" was clearly a translation error. The critic omits that I quoted the original Latin to prove my point -- which meaning is self-evident. (I received a certificate in school for excellence in translating Latin, so I am certain of the proper translation.)

Hence, who is being deceptive? The critic or me? This anonymous critic borrows my quote of a mistranslation which I quoted to be fair, and then without acknowledging it, he uses it to disprove my translation without including my refutation of such a competing translation.

As I will demonstrate below, any modern reader today no longer has to be bamboozled by efforts to mislead on translations. Below I will show that just using google.translate, everyone can see that the original Latin text does not have "the apostle whom the heretics adopt...." It clearly is "apostle of the heretics."

So here is the critic's misleading presentation -- taking part of what I acknowledged was in an English translation -- which I disputed as in error, and then the critic uses it to imply I ignored it, but does not tell the reader (again) that in fact I already acknowledged it. Then the critic misleadingly omits that I already refuted that translation. The critic writes:

More on [author of Jesus Words Only]
[The author of JWO] makes many statements about Marcion and the early church which are correct, but then goes off the rails with his own opinions which are not at all grounded in history. More than that, he misrepresents history (that lying thing) when he says [Note: the critic has since removed this last sentence], 

"In the end, Tertullian even suggested “[Paul] is the apostle of the heretics.” (Tertullian, Adversus Marcion 3:5)" 

Here is the exact quote from Against Marcion 3:5, "When the very apostle whom our heretics adopt..." 

This is a far cry from Tertullian calling Paul a heretic. He is referring to the apostle of the heretic (Marcion)

By the way, the critic at Early Church History has since told me that this last sentence does not mean that Tertullian meant "Marcion was apostle of the heretic(s)." This then means the critic is saying Tertullian is "referring to" Paul "as the apostle of the heretic (Marcion)" which would mean the critic at Early Church History is indeed finally agreeing with me. So that undercuts the entire thrust of his online article. I am truly stumped!@  

Because I could not imagine the critic was conceding my point, I initially interpreted the critic as saying that Tertullian was referring to 'apostle of the heretic' as Marcion -- reading the parenthesis to refer to "apostle" and not "heretic." But now with his explanation, I am truly baffled because he intends a reader of his webpage to agree with me that Tertullian was "referring to" Paul as "the apostle of Marcion." While this does not directly call Paul an heretic, I never said it does. Such a reference by the critic thus means that he acknowledges that Tertullian meant Paul is the "messenger" (apostle) of the heretic Marcion, i.e., Paul is to blame for Marcion's message because Paul is carrying the same message on many points. So in the end the critic explained the above quote of his words to effectively concede my translation of Tertullian. I am truly stumped how he can level his criticisms when in the end he conceded the point. Mysteries never cease.

Regardless, let me defend expressly whether Tertullian's words were  "apostle of the heretics" in Latin.

We will also see who is misleading whom on the question whether the translation is "apostle of the heretics" (which is clearly negative about Paul) or does it say, as the critic quotes, "the apostle whom the heretics adopt" which is more neutral?

First, my remarks about "apostle of the heretics" were not in Jesus' Words Only but I found it after 2007, and I put it online in 2010. Here is what I wrote in 2010 in my article - Early Church Views of Paul

In fact, Tertullian in Adversus Marcion at 3:5 (Caput V) (others erroneously cite 3:6:4) said Paul is the "apostle of the heretics." In Latin, he called Paul "haereticorum apostolus." One commentator says this meant "the writings of Paul --- the haereticorum apostolos of Tertullian ---  were regarded suspiciously at Rome." (Hans Lietzmann,The Lord's Supper (Brill: 1979) at 282.) Tertullian spoke with justification. Among the early gnostic heretics, their writings refer to Paul as "the great (or greatest) apostle" and "Paul who has become like Christ." (A. H. B. Logan, A. J. M. Wedderburn, New Testament and Gnosis (2004) at 13.) Tertullian was correct: Paul was the "apostle of the heretics."

Incidentally, to downplay this "apostle of the heretics" designation, some have suggested Tertullian meant to write "ethnicorum apostolus" meaning "apostle of the gentiles." Editors, however, reject this solution as "unnecessary." See Ante-Nicene Library at 126 fn 5. But I reject it because the context and views of Tertullian prove Tertullian meant precisely what he said. Paul was the "apostle of the heretics."

Also to hide "apostle of the heretics" in the Latin original, the English translations mollify the words. In the Ante-Nicene Fathers by Schaff, it offers an English translation which replaces this clear expression with these words instead: "When the very apostle whom our heretics adopt . . ." (Id., at 324 col. 2.) 

So, first, please see that I was being complete. I did mention the Ante-Nicene editors downplayed the true words "apostle of the heretics" by rendering it as "the very apostle whom our heretics adopt." You can see that the critic took that quote, and misleadingly implied I omitted it, and then without mentioning that I said it violates the "clear expression" in Latin -- which I quoted in Latin -- the critic simply says that it proves I am supposedly wrong, misleading and originally suggested I was "lying" (which he has since removed, for which I thank him). I accept his withdrawal of that charge, but he still has left the 'misleading' remark, which in my mind is synonymous, so I do not yet regard this alteration enough. I am proving here, I trust, that in no way am I misleading, and in fact I am correct, which rules out any effort to mislead.

Specifically, when I said "apostle of the heretics" was a clear expression, this is because I can read Latin. Just for the record, here again is the original Latin text of the entire sentence, to prove I was correct that Schaff mistranslated the clear language -- evidently to soften the negative view it implies about Paul by Tertullian:

 Et quid ego de isto genere amplius? [0327A] cum etiam (I Cor. IX, 9), haereticorum apostolus , ipsam legem indulgentem bobus terentibus os liberum, non de bubus, sed de nobis interpretetur: et petram potui subministrando comitem, Christum alleget (I Cor. X, 4) fuisse, docens proinde et Galatas (Gal. IV, 22), duo argumenta filiorum Abrahae allegorice cucurrisse, et suggerens Ephesiis (Eph. V, 51), quod in primordio de homine praedicatum est, relicturo patrem et matrem, et futuris duobus in unam carnem, id se in Christum et Ecclesiam agnoscere. [Against Marcion 3:5.) 

Now that you can see the language yourself, we need to turn to an objective source which each reader can see how God will judge between this critic and myself. Here is the google translated version:

And what about this, I kind of have more? [0327A], since it also (1 Cor. 9, 9), the Apostle of heretics, the mouth of the very law indulgent, Terence oxen free, does not even of the herd, but of us to interpret it: and I was able to rock supplying the count, allege Christ (1 Cor. 10, 4) to have been, teaching, and, accordingly, the Galatians (Gal 4, 22), the two arguments of the children of Abraham to have run allegorically, and suggesting the Ephesians (Eph. 5, 51), which is the predicate in the first rise out of a man, to leave father and mother, and to come into one of the two to the flesh, to acknowledge all that he is in Christ and the Church. [link]

You can see in the quote that haereticorum apostolus is an expression by itself. The ending -orum to the word participle haeretic adds the meaning "of". So in Latin, it says "of the heretics apostle," which in translating Latin to English is reversed to be "apostle of the heretics." There is nothing about "the apostle adopted by the heretics." NOT AT ALL!

And thus, the critic was wrong to say I misleadingly quoted "apostle of the heretics.' 

Discussions With Critic At Early Church History:

I opened a mutually cordial dialogue with the critic at Early Church History to ask him to read this webpage. We are having a friendly interchange so far, praise God. The critic had a professor at a reputable college in Australia write him on this issue, and this is what he wrote to the critic on March 26, 2013 which the critic shared with me:

On the topic of haereticorm apostolus in Adu. Marc. 3.5, let me say again or in different words, the term is typical of the way Tertullian uses language - it is a brief and shorthand way of saying something that one can truly only interpret and translate by reading the wider context. It is clear here that the wider context of the whole flow of the 5 books Adu. Marc. means that what one has to understand is that the term means - the apostle whom the heretics try to use. It is true the Latin does not say that, but it is impossible to translate Tertullian literally most of the time as his sentences simply are too dense to make sense of without grasping his sense. It is not a question of downplaying what the words say but of trying to get behind them.

[Note: I post his entire comment at the end. I am not identifying him by name because I must respect scholars who author books may not wish their name to be exploited by others one way or the other.] 

Thus, this scholar admits that "it is true the Latin does not say" the words "the apostle whom the heretics tries to use." (The scholar was loosely paraphrasing Schaff who rendered haereticorum apostolus more negatively than as paraphrased -- that "haereticorum apostolus" should read "the apostle whom the heretics adopt.") The scholar defends this even softer rendering he proposes, however, as the intended meaning by means of looking backward at the "whole flow of the 5 books" of Tertullian's Against Marcion. Thus, the modification made by the translator Schaff comes close to the  interpretation which the scholar believes is legitimate rather than was an illegitimate effort to downplay Tertullian having a critical view of Paul. 

If so, then it is interesting that Lietzmann, whom the critic at Early Church History told me to consult as a Tertullian scholar, sees the true translation - "apostle of the heretics" -- instead as truly a negative knock on Paul.  Lietzmann says this meant "the writings of Paul --- the haereticorum apostolos of Tertullian ---  were regarded suspiciously at Rome." (Hans Lietzmann,The Lord's Supper (Brill: 1979) at 282.) In other words, Lietzmann -- the very scholar whom the Early Church History critic cited in email to me as someone supposedly unaware of Tertullian's critical opinion of Paul's authority - recognized that Tertullian's "haereticorum apostolus" meant Paul was regarded at Rome -- i.e., the seat of  orthodoxy --  "suspiciouslyi.e., as a dubious authority as of 207 AD.

I agree with Lietzmann, and not the scholar friend of the critic at Early Church History. Schaff took too much license -- unjustified license -- to mollify the words which a translator is not permitted to do. The critic friend of Early Church History took it one step forward and said we should interpret it as "the apostle whom the heretics try to use." Clearly, the strain of the literal words are being resisted.

Furthermore, in chapter 16 of Jesus' Words Only, I have separately discussed what the broader view of the 5 books reveals about Tertullian's view on Paul. Tertullian refutes all the core doctrines of Paul -- faith alone, eternal security and predestination. He does so claiming these are doctrines of Marcion. But the elephant in the room is Paul - obviously. That alone answers that adding into a translation -- whether "the apostle whom the heretics try to use" (a further mollification by the scholar friend of the critic) or what Schaff said -- "the apostle whom the heretics adopt" -- are unjustified even if translators were permitted to add interpretations into the text. But of course, translators are not permitted to add interpretations into the text.

In sum, the scholar friend of the critic admitted I was correct that it says "apostle of the heretics," and this was a reference to Paul. Please remember that the Early Church History critic previously posted an entire webpage saying I was wrong about both; said I was potentially misleading people and he even initially accused me of this "lying thing." (To his credit, he withdrew that.) But his own scholar friend admitted the essential two facts which refute the critic's two key points about "haeriticorum apostolus." While his scholar friend did justify a loose interpretation in light of all five books of Against Marcion, his scholar friend's interpretation offered to help the critic is refuted by other scholars, and by the clear proofs presented here and in JWO.

In other words, if one wishes to discuss whether the interpretation of Tertullian is not as critical of Paul in these two words because elsewhere in Against Marcion Tertullian speaks positively about Paul, then indeed one must contextually read all of Against Marcion. But the scholar from Austrialia errs. The points I quote above, the points I raised in JWO ch. 16, and now the points coming next below all prove that Tertullian is indeed directly negative about Paul's authority and about the sense one can refer to Paul as an apostle - whether on par with the 12 or just a 'messenger' - the literal meaning of the word 'apostle.'  Indeed, it is the entire context of Against Marcion that makes it clear "apostle of the heretics" was a deliberate and highly negative reference to Paul by Tertullian.

Incidentally, the critic appears to be aware of what is coming in the next section, and thus he tries to preempt it by questioning what importance this "apostle of the heretics" issue has about the use of the term "apostle." The scholar says "apostle" is a very "loose term." (See entire excerpt of the scholar's email below.) Indeed, "apostle" has an ordinary meaning of simply messenger. Only rarely in scripture is it intended to refer to the office of one appointed directly by Jesus, and enjoying the status of 12 judges over the 12 tribes, as Jesus appointed the 12. 

In response, I would only say that Tertullian used the term "apostle" loosely sometimes about Paul, but when it came down to whether Paul was an apostle with authority direct from Jesus (tested against what Acts depicts) or only directly from the true apostles, it is very clear in the next quote that Paul is no more an apostle than you or me. Tertullian therefore used the term 'apostle' loosely about Paul in the quote below and the other references cited in the scholar's email. (See below.) In the next quote below, Tertullian clearly negated Paul was an apostle on par with the 12. It is a near universal misimpression today that extending the "right hand of fellowship" to Paul means the 12 regarded Paul as an apostle and one equal to themselves. But while Tertullian quotes that "right hand" passage, Tertullian uses the fact Paul came to Jerusalem in Acts 15 to gain approval of his views on circumcision as proof Paul did not regard himself an equal apostle to the 12, and thus we cannot help but note the true 12 never call Paul an apostle at all. 

Tertullian Does Refute Paul Was An Apostle Equal to The 12 Based Upon Acts

So as I find so often true of Paulinists who criticize my work, they cannot fairly address my points. They have to distort what I am saying, and then attack that. (I use quotes from what another says so I am not guilty of distorting what they say.) Certainly,Tertullian does refute that Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ. But as I pointed out, Tertullian said Paul is "mine" and refers to Paul as an inferior "later apostle" -- which in Latin and Greek only means "messenger." Only 12 enjoyed the title of "Apostles of Jesus Christ," as Tertullian previously in the same context had proven. Thus, Tertullian only meant Paul had edifying messages. In the same context, Tertullian insists Paul did not have an authority equal to the 12 apostles, and if Paul wrote a gospel, it would have no validity unless the 12 approved it and it matched their gospels. Tertullian cites Acts 15 as proof. To remind the Church History critic, what Tertullian said about Paul plainly and simply, and which I said in chapter sixteen of JWO since 2007, is the following:

 Tertullian then explains Paul (a) could not come with another gospel than the twelve and (b) Paul's authority derived from the twelve and Paul was inferior to them. He cites Acts chapter 15 as proof. Tertullian explains:

Now Luke was not an apostle but an apostolic man, not a master but a disciple, in any case less than his master [i.e., Paul], and assuredly even more of lesser account as being the follower of a later apostle, Paul, 9 to be sure: so that even if Marcion had introduced his gospel under the name of Paul in person, that one single document would not be adequate for our faith, if destitute of the support of his [i.e., Paul's] predecessors [i.e., the twelve apostles]. For we should demand the production of that gospel also which Paul found <in existence>, that to which he gave his assent, that with which shortly afterwards he was anxious that his own should agree: for his intention in going up to Jerusalem to know and to consult the apostles, was lest perchance he had run in vain--that is, lest perchance he had not believed as they did, or were not preaching the gospel in their manner. At length, when he [i.e., Paul] had conferred with the original <apostles>, and there was agreement concerning the rule of the faith, they joined the right hands <of fellowship>....If he [i.e., Paul] therefore who gave the light to Luke chose to have his pre-decessors' authority [i.e., the twelve] for his faith as well as his preaching, much more must I require for Luke's gospel the authority [i.e., from the twelve] which was necessary for the gospel of his master [i.e., Paul]. (Quoted in JWO ch. 16.)

Tertullian could not be more clear. Paul's authority was not recognized as direct from Jesus or by revelation. It only derived from Paul's recognition by the twelve apostles. He was their disciple, and they were Paul's masters. If Paul created a gospel text, Tertullian responds that Paul's conduct in Acts chapter 15 reveals Paul's authority could not exceed the words and guidance of the twelve. 

And Paul, per Tertullian, did not have confidence his own views were valid. He was "anxious that his own should agree" with the 12, "perchance he had not believed as they did, or were not preaching the gospel in their manner." 

What more can I say? A gospel written by Paul, Tertullian said, lacks any authority whatsoever. Only the Gospel by his predecessors was valid, and would be the test over and above anything written by Paul to test the validity of Paul's words. How much more clear can Tertullian possibly be? 

Other Erroneous Claims by Critic 

The critic next says I mention Marcion believed in faith alone. He does not dispute that. The critic then says I failed to mention that Marcion taught abstention from marriage, implying that one thing has to do with the other. And then the critic claims I implied the Marcionites were licentious, which I never said nor implied -- EVER! The critic clearly is trying to raise a Red Herring - a common juvenile tactic as a means to win an argument - to refute another by falsely implying that another made a weak claim that you then easily refute.

Then after that false insinuation on my views, the critic now proves the Marcionites were not licentious. The critic claims the Marcionites taught it was better not to marry -- which is not suprising, because, as I show below, Paul taught the identical thing!!!! And thus we learn what I never disputed... that the Marcionites were not licentious. Thus, scurrilous dust is thrown up, but how it is supposed to prove I am supposedly "lying" and "misleading" anyone is beyond me.

Here is the erroneous claims by the critic:

[The author of JWO] repeatedly describes Marcion's gospel as "faith alone" and contrasts that of Tertullian as one that required obedience. He never mentions that Marcionites were expected to shun ALL the joys of the world including family. Clement of Alexandria tells us that Marcionites abstained from marriage and thus sexual relations. (MiscellaniesIII.3.12) 

My point is that [the author of JWO] seems to paint Marcion and his followers as undisciplined sloths. The truth is that Marcion was a Gnostic, and as such represented the strict side of Gnosticism (according to Clement) that maintained all earthly/fleshly pleasures were sinful.

Well, this tries to make a point out of nothing. What does absention from marriage have to do with the issue of faith alone? After all, Marcion was simply heeding Paul who said: 

32But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: 33But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. 34There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. (1 Cor. 7:32-34 KJV.)

Note: A few manuscripts begin verse 34 "and his interests are divided." (See variants 1 Cor.)

And it is in this same context Paul teaches "it is good for a man not to touch a woman" (1 Cor. 7:1 KJV) And consistent with this, Paul says a daughter is better off unmarried than married: "So then both he that giveth his own virgin daughter in marriage doeth well; and he that giveth her not in marriage shall do better." (1 Cor. 7:38 KJV.)

So the fact Marcion believed the same things Paul did, and exhorted to take Paul's negative views about marriage as the most important principle, proves exactly what? That I am supposedly misleading by saying someone believes in faith alone without mentioning someone also exhorts followers to avoid marriage? Or does my mention that Marcion believed in faith alone allegedly automatically suggest both Paul and Marcion are sloths? I never said nor implied such a thing.

This critic's claim is utter nonsense. But this should help people on the fence see how bottom-of-the-barrel the arguments to defend Paul become. Their need to use low-blows suggests to me that the author knows he has nothing he can say -- so he just tries to throw dirt, even if there is nothing express he or she can find wrong.

Then the critic moves on to Bercot, but I soon come back into view. He claims that the Marcionites believed that it was better not to marry proved they had some sense of works being important, and hence they were not licentious. (I never said or implied they were licentious.) Here is what the critic says:

[The author of JWO] and Bercot present Gnostics as those who believed their salvation was completely devoid of works. While there were groups like this (ie., the Carpocratians, see Ireneaus, A.H. I.25.4) Marcion's sect was completely different as I have already explained above. But [the author of JWO] and Bercot fail to explain this. It is easier to make the Gnostics out to be "salvation by grace alone" liberals and to then link this with the apostle Paul.

What the critic explained earlier, to which he refers, is that Marcionites taught Paul's doctrine that abstention from marriage was the rule of life to follow. As Paul never suggested abstention was necessary to be justified for salvation, neither did Marcion. For Marcion's rule was 100% clear that any disobedience of God / sin never jeapardized one's salvation as long as one had faith (see link), just as Paul appears in many places to teach eternal security (while in many places Paul appears to teach the opposite).

So Marcion's sect was not completely devoid of ethics -- and I never implied they were. I said they were Paulinists - extremely so- and every word of Paul was hung onto. He was their only apostle. They expressly rejected the 12. Thus, if Paul said it is better not to marry, the Marcionites followed it.

Hence, I did not omit anything material about Marcion that needed mentioning. What the critic brings up simply proves more proximity between Paul and Marcion than we mentioned in our articles -- Paul and Marcion shared the exhortation to abstention. Thus, when the critic tries to imply I or Bercot have left out something, it is not true. However,  even if we did, had we included it, the facts about abstention STRENGTHENS our point, not weakens it. The critic has misanalyzed the marriage practices of Marcion as somehow non-Pauline when they are 100% Pauline.


The critic made the following erroneous points:

  • Tertullian said Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ. The critic erroneously cites as proof for this erroneous view that Tertullian cites Acts 15 in which Paul was extended the right hand of fellowship by the 12. But that quote does not say Paul was accepted as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the 12. Paul was accepted as a brother - nothing more. Tertullian makes this clear even while Tertullian quotes that passage. Tertullian relying upon Acts 15 says Paul was anxious to submit to the 12, and needed to be sure his doctrine matched the 12. Based on Acts 15, Tertullian concludes even a gospel written by Paul would, by itself, have no authority. This tells you indirectly that Tertullian does not regard the vision accounts in Acts as appointing Paul an apostle -- and indeed, in each of the 3 (Acts 9, 22, and 26), the "Jesus" whom Paul meets never calls Paul an Apostle. That "Jesus" says Paul will be a "witness" - "martus" in Greek. The fact Paul was treated as a brother by the apostles, and was given the "right hand" of fellowship by the true 12, which Tertullian mentions, does not prove to Tertullian they accepted Paul as an apostle with equal authority from Jesus. Any reference to Paul as an apostle in Against Marcion was, in the final analysis, proven to be a loose use of the term, and hence no proof that contradicts Tertullian's final conclusion that Paul had no authority direct from Jesus, but only to whatever extent that the 12 gave Paul any authority. Clearly, in full context, Tertullian said Paul was not an apostle appointed by Jesus, and we need not give Paul any independent authority.
  • Tertullian supposedly did not say Paul was the apostle of the heretics. The correct translation of the Latin at issue is that Paul is the "apostle of the heretics" -- a very fitting title. Even the scholar friend of the critic concurs I was correct on the actual Latin in the text.
  • I supposedly imply the Marcionites were licentious because I mention they believed in salvation by faith alone. This is illogical, and I never implied the Marcionites were licentious. The critic then disproves the Marcionites were licentious by proving they practiced abstention from marriage. Kudos to him for his Straw Man argument. But his argument backfired because it only strengthens my point that Marcionites were extreme Paulinists.  Paul exhorted such abstention.  The Marcionites took Paul as 100% the gospel to obey. But the rest of the church did not adhere to Paul's doctrines including on abstention from marriage as the better path, proving my point that Paul was little regarded back then.


Created 1/6/2013)

Dialogue via Email

Post March 24, 2013: In the email comment section of the critic's page, I have submitted a link to this page for the critic to respond to my points herein. I wrote:

Dear author of this piece. I am the author whom you mention in this article. I have responded to you with an online posting. Please let me know if you still are making the same accusations about this 'lying' thing you accuse me of. I trust as a Christian brother who loves the Lord Jesus at least as much as I do that you will find a way to make your points, if valid, without such claims. I would appreciate factual corrections rather than insults. Blessings. D. link.

On March 26, 2013, the critic had a scholar friend write him answering him. Without identifying his name, I will post his entire email here:


Greetings. I am here in St Louis on a ten-week fellowship, and working away furiously to make the most of my time and enjoying the snow storms.

It seems to me that there are two points to deal with: 1. what did Tertullian say about Paul (and his apostleship)? 2 What is the relevance of that?

1. a) Tertullian acknowledges that Paul was not listed in the gospels as an apostle (Adu. Marc. 5.1.1 [CCL 1.663]) and Marcion makes a particular claim on Paul (Adu. Marc. 5.1.2 [CCL 1.664]), whom Tertullian is quite happy to call an apostle in this section, so the seeming criticism of Paul (that he if Jesus wanted him as an apostle he would have called him as one while he was alive, and anyone can call themself an apostle without necessarily being one - Adu. Marc. 5.1.3 [CCL 1.664]) will be revealed to be a dummy pass (I think that is Australian - sleight of hand). When Tertullian says here that Paul is not listed as an apostle that is not his final position on the matter, by the end of this chapter Tertullian is defending Paul's apostolic credentials. It is a concession (Granted that Paul is not listed as an apostle, nonetheless he was one).

b) Since Marcion is all about rejecting the creator God, Tertullian seeks to point out that in using Paul Marcion is making use of someone who was designated to serve from the pages of the OT itself (Adu. Marc. 5.1.5-6 [CCL 1.664]).

c) When Tertullian writes "Sit Christus, sit et apostolus nunc alterius, dum non probantur nisi de instrumento creatoris" (Adu. Marc. 5.1.4 [CCL 1.664]), one really needs to pay attention to the use of the subjunctive. In this instance, in the context of the argument, it must be translated to mean "Let them try and argue that Paul was only the servant of the other God and not the creator God because they will not be able to do it, because I shall show that it was the creator God who announced Paul's coming, which is what we find in b) above.

d) Tertullian accepts Paul's self-designation in Gal. 1:1 to be an apostle (Adu. Marc. 5.1.6 [CCL 1.664]). "Non blasphemo quem tueor." (Adu. Marc. 5.1.6 [CCL 1.665]) is Tertullian's clear statement that he considers Paul's writings to be authoritative.

e) What distinguishes Tertullian's Paul from Marcion's Paul is that the former's Paul has an authority that comes from the creator God while Marcion's has none (Adu. Marc. 5.1.8 [CCL 1.665]), and that Tertullian respects Paul's writings while Marcion mutilates them (and interprets them to suit himself (Adu. Marc. 5.1.9 [CCL 1.665]). In this section Tertullian uses the word apostolus 6 times and they all undoubtedly refer to Paul. Tertullian is not interested to prove Paul's apostleship, that is done so by the creator in Gen. 49:27. Of course, a good oponent could charge that Tertullian was doing the same thing as Marcion is misinterpreting Paul, but he anticipates that argument in all his writings by trying to demonstrate how his interpretation agrees with the regula fidei. Tertullian does not score own goals (at least not in his own mind), he is rescuing Paul by showing that Marcion's interpretations are illegal. Of course, as many scholars have grappled with, Tertullian's problem is how to preserve the newness of the NT while defending the value of the OT and how to undermine the Jews without throwing out the OT.

f) With regard to Adu. Marc. 1.23-27, it must be pointed out that it is a standard practice ofTertullian (which comes from his rhetorical training), that he attacks on opponent on several fronts to make his argument look stronger. Often Tertullian will produce arguments from Scripture and arguments from reason and arguments from practice, the cumulation of which suggest that the opponent has no way out. This is what we find in these chapters. Tertullian turns to reason, and that is why he does not refer to Paul. The main focus here is on philosophical qualities of a divine being - justice, goodness, etc. I really do not see that Tertullian is engaged in any significant way in questions like justification by faith or predestination in these chapters, but maybe I have missed something. I certainly do not see Tertullian destroying the substance of anything Pauline in these chapters at all.

g) On the topic of haereticorm apostolus in Adu. Marc. 3.5, let me say again or in different words, the term is typical of the way Tertullian uses language - it is a brief and shorthand way of saying something that one can truly only interpret and translate by reading the wider context. It is clear here that the wider context of the whole flow of the 5 books Adu. Marc. means that what one has to understand is that the term means - the apostle whom the heretics try to use. It is true the Latin does not say that, but it is impossible to translate Tertullian literally most of the time as his sentences simply are too dense to make sense of without grasping his sense. It is not a question of downplaying what the words say but of trying to get behind them.

h) To dismiss De. bapt. as an early work implies that Tertullian underwent a development/change in thinking over time. This is true in some respects (as the influence of Montanism grew for example, and with regard to questions like repentance and remarriage), but it is not true here. It is simply WRONG. A better way of interpreting Tertullian is to take into account the different objectives he has in different works - a different audience means that Tertullian tries to achieve different things. It is entirely legitimate to refer to De bapt. to get a sense of how Tertullian, away from the polemic with Marcion, understands Paul's apostleship. The other assumption here is that in Adu. Marc. Tertullian was



2. More significantly, what is the point of all of this? Whether or not Paul was an apostle is of very little importance. This is a loose term, and nothing much can depend upon whether or not one was or was not an apostle. The point seems to be that Paul contradicts Jesus and that if we get rid of Paul then we have a pure Jesus and that is all we need. One finds this argument in a particular style of Christianity, one that I certainly do not adhere to, but it is not something that I would care to take the time now to deal with, since that could be an endless and fruitless task. One either has an ecclesial sense of authority of Scripture or one has a more personal sense. All I would point out is that we have no access to the words of Jesus except as they are mediated through the human authors who, despite divine inspiration, nonetheless contributed their human foibles to their writings. Orthodox Christians of the earliest generations did accept the writings of Paul as a true and legitimate expression of the gospel. Tertullian is to be counted among them. Issues about any Montanism are completely irrelevant since, let me stress, Tertullian never left the church and never was condemned by the church.


In conclusion let me make my reading of Adu. Marc. clear - no where does Tertullian actually deny that Paul was an apostle. He may seem to make that claim by only by way of turning it around to show that he was.


I hope this helps. (signed) A.

I wrote on March 26th and followed up on March 29th on the missing portion of the scholar's comments:


I don't know if you got my last email...something written by Mr. D was dropped out in what you forwarded...Would you please send it to me so I can comment, and know fully his thoughts.... Here is where the gap took place -- right after "was":

The other assumption here is that in Adu. Marc. Tertullian was


2. More significantly, what is the point of all of this? 

Obviously, it is something important.
On March 29, 2013, I received this pertinent reply:


Sorry.  I have been busy.

Yes, I have asked D for clarification.