In contemporary biblical scholarship the radicalism of the Pauline concept of “new creation,” introduced in 2 Cor 5:17 and Gal 6:15, rarely comes to the fore. As opposed to ancient Christian writers, who underscored discontinuity between Christianity and Judaism, modern scholars tend to focus on the Jewish background of this oblique phrase, thereby implying a significant amount of continuity. They also debate whether “new creation” is to be interpreted in anthropological or in cosmological terms. The latter is implied in Tertullian’s Adv. Marc. 4-5, where he quotes and alludes to 2 Cor 5:17 several times. In my paper I examine these quotations and allusions, paying particular attention to Tertullian’s understanding of the newness associated with “new creation,” as well as to the anti-Jewish overtones present in this context. I also note the overall role that references to 2 Cor 5:17 play in Tertullian’s vetera-nova antithesis, paramount for the argument in Adv. Marc.
The understanding of new creation as necessitating the rejection of the Law and Jewish customs was to become a commonplace in patristic literature. The connection between the newness of all things and the alleged obsolescence of Judaism, is present also in Adv. Marc. 4-5. Similarly, when Tertullian mentions “new creation” (nova conditio) in De ieiunio 14.2, it implies the need for new festivals and observances, distinct from Iudaicae ceremoniae. Yet in Adv. Marc., Tertullian, when quoting 2 Cor 5:17, rather than invoking Paul’s authority, often weaves parts of this verse into a series of quotations from Isaiah and Jeremiah. Not only does he frequently leave Paul unidentified as the author, but what is more, he several times attributes Paul’s words announcing the “passing away of old things,” to Isaiah. While emphasizing newness, Tertullian manages to present a complete reversal of the world order as a mere fulfilment of prophecy. As a consequence of placing Paul’s words into Isaiah’s mouth, a strict distinction between the Old and New Testaments may be blurred. Yet in Tertullian’s mind, rather than bringing the two closer to each other, the bond of continuity between them consists in, paradoxically, an insurmountable opposition between their respective worlds.