De Carne Christi

by Tertullian

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"It Is Certain, Because It Is Impossible"

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Last Updated on January 19, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 255

Context: Tertullian, educated in Carthage and in Rome with specialization in law and rhetoric, and later converted to Christianity, was well prepared for his role as defender of the Christian faith. In De Carne Christi, Tertullain answers the heretical writings of Marcion, Apelles, Basilides, and Valentinus, who argued that Christ never existed in the flesh. With legalistic logic Tertullain contends that the heresy of his opponents is fallacious because it is the very foolishness, or one may say wisdom, of God that made Him elect to be born as a human, to suffer, and to die:

There are, to be sure, other things also quite as "foolish" [as the birth of Christ], which have reference to the humiliations and sufferings of God. Or else, let them call a crucified God "wisdom." But Marcion will apply the knife to this [doctrine] also, and even with greater reason. For which is more unworthy of God, which is more likely to raise a blush of shame, that [God] should be born, or that He should die? that He should bear the flesh, or the cross? be circumcised, or be crucified? be cradled, or be coffined? be laid in a manger, or in a tomb? [Talk of "wisdom!"] You will show more of that if you refuse to believe this also. But, after all, you will not be "wise" unless you become a "fool" to the world, by believing "the foolish things of God." . . . And He was buried, and rose again; the fact is certain, because it is impossible.

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