Matt. 5:38-42 (Part 3)

TERTULLIAN: Hippias [a pagan] is put to death laying plots against the state: no Christian ever attempted such a thing in behalf of his brethren, even when persecution was scattering them abroad with every atrocity. But it will be said that some of us, too, depart from the rules of our discipline. In that case, however, we count them no longer Christians. The Apology, 3.51.

TERTULLIAN: As for the Christians, however, in what does their case resemble this? No one is ashamed; no one is sorry, except for his former sins. If he is pointed at for his religion, he glories in it; if dragged to trial, he does not resist; if accused, he makes no defense. When questioned, he confesses; when condemned, he rejoices. What sort of evil is this, in which the nature of evil comes to a standstill? Ad Nationes, 3.109-110.

TERTULLIAN: Hear what is predicted in Zechariah: “The Lord of hosts shall protect them; and they shall devour them, and subdue them with sling-stones; and they shall drink their blood like wine, and they shall fill the bowls as it were of the altar. And the Lord shall save them in that day, even His people, like sheep; because as sacred stones they roll,” etc. And that you may not suppose that these predictions refer to such sufferings as await them from so many wars with strangers, consider the nature (of the sufferings). In a prophecy of wars which were to be waged with legitimate arms, no one would think of enumerating stones as weapons, which are better known in popular crowds and unarmed tumults. Nobody measures the copious streams of blood which flow in war by bowlfuls, nor limits it to what is shed upon a single altar. No one gives the name of sheep to those who fall in battle with arms in hand, and while repelling force with force, but only to those who are slain, yielding themselves up in their own place of duty and with patience, rather than fighting in self- defense. Against Marcion, 3.415.

TERTULLIAN: If one attempt to provoke you by manual violence, the monition of the Lord is at hand: “To him,” He says, “who smites you on the face, turn the other cheek likewise.” Let outrageousness be wearied out by your patience. Whatever that blow may be, conjoined with pain and insulting treatment, it shall receive a heavier one from the Lord. You wound that outrageous one more by enduring: for he will be beaten by Him for whose sake you endure. If the tongue’s bitterness break out in malediction or reproach, look back at the saying, “When they curse you, rejoice.” The Lord Himself was “cursed” in the eye of the law; and yet He is the only Blessed One. Let us servants, therefore, follow our Lord closely; and be cursed patiently, that we may be able to be blessed. Of Patience, 3.712.

TERTULLIAN: What difference is there between provoker and provoked, except that the former is detected as prior in evil-doing, but the latter as posterior? Yet each stands blamed of hurting a man in the eye of the Lord, who both prohibits and condemns every wickedness. In evil doing there is no account taken of order, nor does place separate what similarity combines. And the precept is absolute, that evil is not to be repaid with evil. Of Patience, 3.713.

COMMODIANUS: Many are the martyrdoms which are made without shedding of blood. Not to desire other men’s goods; to wish to have the benefit of martyrdom; to bridle the tongue, you ought to make yourself humble; not willingly to use force, nor to return force used against you, be a patient mind, understand that you are a martyr. The Instructions of Commodianus, 4.212.

ORIGEN: The Savior said, “I say to you, do not resist evil;” . . . and in issuing certain other commands, conveys no other meaning than this, that it is in our own power to observe what is commanded. And therefore we are rightly rendered liable to condemnation if we transgress those commandments which we are able to keep. De Principiis, 4.305.

ORIGEN: Neither Celsus [a pagan critic] nor they who think with him are able to point out any act on the part of Christians which savors of rebellion. And yet, if a revolt had led to the formation of the Christian commonwealth, so that it derived its existence in this way from that of the Jews, who were permitted to take up arms in defense of the members of their families, and to slay their enemies, the Christian Lawgiver would not have altogether forbidden the putting of men to death; and yet He nowhere teaches that it is right for His own disciples to offer violence to any one, however wicked. For He did not deem it in keeping with such laws as His, which were derived from a divine source, to allow the killing of any individual whatever. Nor would the Christians, had they owed their origin to a rebellion, have adopted laws of so exceedingly mild a character as not to allow them, when it was their fate to be slain as sheep, on any occasion to resist their persecutors. . . .

Because Christians were taught not to avenge themselves upon their enemies (and have thus observed laws of a mild and philanthropic character); and because they would not, although able, have made war even if they had received authority to do so, they have obtained this reward from God, that He has always warred in their behalf, and on certain occasions has restrained those who rose up against them and desired to destroy them. For in order to remind others, that by seeing a few engaged in a struggle for their religion, they also might be better fitted to despise death, some, on special occasions, and these individuals who can be easily numbered, have endured death for the sake of Christianity, God not permitting the whole nation to be exterminated, but desiring that it should continue, and that the whole world should be filled with this health-giving and religious doctrine. Against Celsus, 4.467-468.

ORIGEN: “Christians also have,” says he [Clesus, a pagan critic], “a precept to this effect, that we ought not to avenge ourselves on one who injures us,” or, as Christ expresses it, 'Whosoever shall strike you on the one cheek, turn to him the other also.'

“This is an ancient saying, which had been admirably expressed long before, and which they have only reported in a coarser way. For Plato introduces Socrates conversing with Crito as follows: 

'Must we never do injustice to any?'

“'Certainly not.'

“'And since we must never do injustice, must we not return injustice for an injustice that has been done to us, as most people think?'

“'It seems to me that we should not.'

“'But tell me, Crito, may we do evil to any one or not?'

“'Certainly not, O Socrates.'

“'Well, is it just, as is commonly said, for one who has suffered wrong to do wrong in return, or is it unjust?'

“'It is unjust. Yes; for to do harm to a man is the same as to do him injustice.'

“'You speak truly. We must then not do injustice in return for injustice, nor must we do evil to any one, whatever evil we may have suffered from him.' Thus Plato speaks; and he adds, 'Consider, then, whether you are at one with me, and whether, starting from this principle, we may not come to the conclusion that it is never right to do injustice, even in return for an injustice which has been received; or whether, on the other hand, you differ from me, and do not admit the principle from which we started. That has always been my opinion, and is so still.' Such are the sentiments of Plato, and indeed they were held by divine men before his time.” . . .

From these remarks it is evident, that when Jesus said “coarsely,” as Celsus terms it, “To him who shall strike you on the one cheek, turn the other also; and if any man be minded to sue you at the law, and take away your coat, let him have your cloak also,” He expressed Himself in such a way as to make the precept have more practical effect than the words of Plato in the Crito; for the latter is so far from being intelligible to ordinary persons, that even those have a difficulty in understanding him, who have been brought up in the schools of learning, and have been initiated into the famous philosophy of Greece. It may also be observed, that the precept enjoining patience under injuries is in no way corrupted or degraded by the plain and simple language which our Lord employs. Against Celsus, 4.634-635.

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