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Chapter XI.—Spirit—A Term Expressive of an Operation of the Soul, Not of Its Nature.  To Be Carefully Distinguished from the Spirit of God.

But the nature of my present inquiry obliges me to call the soul spirit or breath, because to breathe is ascribed to another substance. We, however, claim this (operation) for the soul, which we acknowledge to be an indivisible simple substance, and therefore we must call it spirit in a definitive sense—not because of its condition, but of its action; not in respect of its nature, but of its operation; because it respires, and not because it is spirit p. 191 in any especial sense. 1561 For to blow or breathe is to respire. So that we are driven to describe, by (the term which indicates this respiration—that is to say) spirit—the soul which we hold to be, by the propriety of its action, breath. Moreover, we properly and especially insist on calling it breath (or spirit), in opposition to Hermogenes, who derives the soul from matter instead of from the afflatus or breath of God. He, to be sure, goes flatly against the testimony of Scripture, and with this view converts breath into spirit, because he cannot believe that the (creature on which was breathed the) Spirit of God fell into sin, and then into condemnation; and therefore he would conclude that the soul came from matter rather than from the Spirit or breath of God. For this reason, we on our side even from that passage, maintain the soul to be breath and not the spirit, in the scriptural and distinctive sense of the spirit; and here it is with regret that we apply the term spirit at all in the lower sense, in consequence of the identical action of respiring and breathing.  In that passage, the only question is about the natural substance; to respire being an act of nature. I would not tarry a moment longer on this point, were it not for those heretics who introduce into the soul some spiritual germ which passes my comprehension: (they make it to have been) conferred upon the soul by the secret liberality of her mother Sophia (Wisdom), without the knowledge of the Creator. 1562 But (Holy) Scripture, which has a better knowledge of the soul’s Maker, or rather God, has told us nothing more than that God breathed on man’s face the breath of life, and that man became a living soul, by means of which he was both to live and breathe; at the same time making a sufficiently clear distinction between the spirit and the soul, 1563 in such passages as the following, wherein God Himself declares: “My Spirit went forth from me, and I made the breath of each. And the breath of my Spirit became soul.” 1564 And again:  “He giveth breath unto the people that are on the earth, and Spirit to them that walk thereon.” 1565 First of all there comes the (natural) soul, that is to say, the breath, to the people that are on the earth,—in other words, to those who act carnally in the flesh; then afterwards comes the Spirit to those who walk thereon,—that is, who subdue the works of the flesh; because the apostle also says, that “that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, (or in possession of the natural soul,) and afterward that which is spiritual.” 1566 For, inasmuch as Adam straightway predicted that “great mystery of Christ and the church,” 1567 when he said, “This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they two shall become one flesh,” 1568 he experienced the influence of the Spirit.  For there fell upon him that ecstasy, which is the Holy Ghost’s operative virtue of prophecy. And even the evil spirit too is an influence which comes upon a man. Indeed, the Spirit of God not more really “turned Saul into another man,” 1569 that is to say, into a prophet, when “people said one to another, What is this which is come to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” 1570 than did the evil spirit afterwards turn him into another man—in other words, into an apostate. Judas likewise was for a long time reckoned among the elect (apostles), and was even appointed to the office of their treasurer; he was not yet the traitor, although he was become fraudulent; but afterwards the devil entered into him. Consequently, as the spirit neither of God nor of the devil is naturally planted with a man’s soul at his birth, this soul must evidently exist apart and alone, previous to the accession to it of either spirit: if thus apart and alone, it must also be simple and uncompounded as regards its substance; and therefore it cannot respire from any other cause than from the actual condition of its own substance.



Proprie “by reason of its nature.”


See the tract Adv. Valentin., c. xxv. infra.


Compare Adv. Hermog. xxxii. xxxiii.; also Irenæus, v. 12, 17. [See Vol. I. p. 527, this Series.]


Tertullian’s reading of Isa. lvii. 16.


Isa. xlii. 5.


1 Cor. xv. 46.


Eph. 5:31, 32.


Gen. 2:24, 25.


1 Sam. x. 6.


1 Sam. x. 11.

Next: Difference Between the Mind and the Soul, and the Relation Between Them.