Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tertullian Argues that the Marcionites Were Influenced by Plato

It is well known that Clement attributes Platonic influence over Marcionitism but it is less well known that the argument is also developed in Tertullian.  We read in a lengthy section in de Anima:

But Plato, in order to disparage the testimony of the senses, in the Phaedrus denies (in the person of Socrates) his own ability to know even himself, according to the injunction of the Delphic oracle; and in the Theaetetus he deprives himself of the faculties of knowledge and sensation; and again, in the Phaedrus he postpones till after death the posthumous knowledge, as he calls it, of the truth; and yet for all he went on playing the philosopher even before he died. We may not, I say, we may not call into question the truth of the (poor vilified) senses, lest we should even in Christ Himself, bring doubt upon the truth of their sensation; lest perchance it should be said that He did not really "behold Satan as lightning fall from heaven; " that He did not really hear the Father's voice testifying of Himself; or that He was deceived in touching Peter's wife's mother;or that the fragrance of the ointment which He afterwards smelled was different from that which He accepted for His burial; and that the taste of the wine was different from that which He consecrated in memory of His blood. On this false principle it was that Marcion actually chose to believe that He was a phantom, denying to Him the reality of a perfect body. Now, not even to His apostles was His nature ever a matter of deception. He was truly both seen and heard upon the mount; true and real was the draught of that wine at the marriage of (Cana in) Galilee; true and real also was the touch of the then believing Thomas. Read the testimony of John: "That which we have seen, which we have heard, which we have looked upon with our eyes, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life." False, of course, and deceptive must have been that testimony, if the witness of our eyes, and ears, and hands be by nature a lie.

I turn now to the department of our intellectual faculties, such as Plato has handed it over to the heretics, distinct from our bodily functions, having obtained the knowledge of them before death ... [de Anima 16,17]

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