Tertullian on the Gospels

Tertullian of Carthage (ca 160-225 CE) was a trained lawyer and one of the most influential of the Latin fathers, though the legacy of the great heresiologist has been controversial as he later became a Montanist (the New Prophecy that originated with Montanus in Asia Minor was branded a “heresy”).  Of his many writings he is most famous for his five-volume work Adversus Marcionem (Against Marcion) in which he rips into Marcion with one of the most biting pieces of polemic that I have come across in the literature (see here).  Marcion is also accused of mutilating the text of Luke (Irenaeus, A.H. 1.27.2; Tertullian, Adv. Marc. 4.2.4.; 4.3.1-2; Epiphanius, Haer. 1.3.11; contra Hippolytus, Ref. 7.18) and Tertullian even denigrates Luke as only an apostolic assistant/disciple in his polemic against Marcion (4.2.4), though Tertullian acknowledges that Marcion did not have an author’s name as the title for his gospel (Adv. Marc. 4.2.3) and seems to have read Paul’s proclamation of “my gospel” (a summary of his kerygma; Rom 2:16) as a reference to a Gospel text.  In this light, Tertullian defends the unity of the fourfold canon against Marcion’s “mutilated” Gospel in Adv. Marc. 4.2.2:

Denique nobis fidem ex apostolis Ioannes et Matthaeus insinuant, ex apostolicis Lucas et Marcus instaurant, isdem regulis exorsi, quantum ad unicum deum attinet creatorem et Christum eius, natum ex virgine, supplementum legis et prophetarum. Viderit enim si narrationum dispositio variavit, dummodo de capite fidei conveniat, de quo cum Marcione non convenit. (Latin text)

In short, from among the apostles the faith is introduced to us by John and by Matthew, while from among apostolic men Luke and Mark give it renewal, <all of them> beginning with the same rules <of belief>, as far as relates to the one only God, the Creator, and to his Christ, born of a virgin, the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. It matters not that the arrangement of their narratives varies, so long as there is agreement on the essentials of the faith—and on these they show no agreement with Marcion. (Ernest Evans)

Of the apostles, therefore, John and Matthew first instil faith into us; while of apostolic men, Luke and Mark renew it afterwards. These all start with the same principles of the faith, so far as relates to the one only God the Creator and His Christ, how that He was born of the Virgin, and came to fulfill the law and the prophets.  Never mind if there does occur some variation in the order of their narratives, provided that there be agreement in the essential matter of the faith, in which there is disagreement with Marcion. (Peter Holmes)

In short, from among the Apostles, John and Matthew implant in us the Faith, while from among apostolic men Luke and Mark reaffirm it, [all of them] beginning with the same rules [of belief,] as far as relates to the only God, the Creator, and to his Christ, born of a virgin, the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.  It matters not that the arrangement of their narratives varies, so long as there is agreement on the essentials of the Faith – and on these they show no agreement with Marcion. (Bernard Orchard, The Order of the Synoptics, p. 134)

In short, from among the apostles the faith is introduced to us by John and by Matthew, while from among the apostolic men Luke and Mark give it renewal, [all of them] beginning with the same rules [of belief]… It matters not that the arrangement of their narrative varies, so long as there are agreement on the essentials of the faith – and on these they show no agreement with Marcion. (C. Clifton Black, Images of an Apostolic Interpreter, p. 126)

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