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Chapter XX.—Meaning of the Phrase—In the Beginning. Tertullian Connects It with the Wisdom of God, and Elicits from It the Truth that the Creation Was Not Out of Pre-Existent Matter.

But in proof that the Greek word means nothing else than beginning, and that beginning admits of no other sense than the initial one, we have that (Being) 6323 even acknowledging such a beginning, who says:  “The Lord possessed 6324 me, the beginning of His ways for the creation of His works.” 6325 For since all things were made by the Wisdom of God, it follows that, when God made both the heaven and the earth in principio—that is to say, in the beginning—He made them in His Wisdom. If, indeed, beginning had a material signification, the Scripture would not have informed us that God made so and so in principio, at the beginning, but rather ex principio, of the beginning; for He would not have created in, but of, matter. When Wisdom, however, was referred to, it was quite right to say, in the beginning.  For it was in Wisdom that He made all things at first, because by meditating and arranging His plans therein, 6326 He had in fact already done (the work of creation); and if He had even intended to create out of matter, He would yet have effected His creation when He previously medip. 489 tated on it and arranged it in His Wisdom, since It 6327 was in fact the beginning of His ways:  this meditation and arrangement being the primal operation of Wisdom, opening as it does the way to the works by the act of meditation and thought. 6328 This authority of Scripture I claim for myself even from this circumstance, that whilst it shows me the God who created, and the works He created, it does not in like manner reveal to me the source from which He created. For since in every operation there are three principal things, He who makes, and that which is made, and that of which it is made, there must be three names mentioned in a correct narrative of the operation—the person of the maker the sort of thing which is made, 6329 and the material of which it is formed. If the material is not mentioned, while the work and the maker of the work are both mentioned, it is manifest that He made the work out of nothing.  For if He had had anything to operate upon, it would have been mentioned as well as (the other two particulars). 6330 In conclusion, I will apply the Gospel as a supplementary testimony to the Old Testament.  Now in this there is all the greater reason why there should be shown the material (if there were any) out of which God made all things, inasmuch as it is therein plainly revealed by whom He made all things. “In the beginning was the Word” 6331 —that is, the same beginning, of course, in which God made the heaven and the earth 6332 —“and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made.” 6333 Now, since we have here clearly told us who the Maker was, that is, God, and what He made, even all things, and through whom He made them, even His Word, would not the order of the narrative have required that the source out of which all things were made by God through the Word should likewise be declared, if they had been in fact made out of anything? What, therefore, did not exist, the Scripture was unable to mention; and by not mentioning it, it has given us a clear proof that there was no such thing: for if there had been, the Scripture would have mentioned it.





Condidit: “created.”


Prov. viii. 22.


In qua: in Wisdom.




De cogitatu.


Species facti.




John i. 1.


Gen. i. 1.


John i. 1-3.

Next: A Retort of Heresy Answered. That Scripture Should in So Many Words Tell Us that the World Was Made of Nothing is Superfluous.