Sacred Texts  Christianity  Early Church Fathers  Index  Previous  Next 

Chapter III.—The Folly of This Heresy. It Dissects and Mutilates the Deity. Contrasted with the Simple Wisdom of True Religion. To Expose the Absurdities of the Valentinian System is to Destroy It.

Let, then, the serpent hide himself as much as he is able, and let him wrest 6642 all his wisdom in the labyrinths of his obscurities; let him dwell deep down in the ground; let him worm himself into secret holes; let him unroll his length through his sinuous joints; 6643 let him tortuously crawl, though not all at once, 6644 beast as he is that skulks the light. Of our dove, however, how simple is the very home!—always in high and open places, and facing the light! As the symbol of the Holy Spirit, it loves the (radiant) East, that figure of Christ. 6645 Nothing causes truth a blush, except only being hidden, because no man will be ashamed to give ear thereto. No man will be ashamed to recognise Him as God whom nature has already commended to him, whom he already perceives in all His works, 6646 —Him indeed who is simply, for this reason, imperfectly known; because man has not thought of Him as only one, because he has named Him in a plurality (of gods), and adored Him in other forms. Yet, 6647 to induce oneself to turn from this multitude of deities to another crowd, 6648 to remove from a familiar authority to an unknown one, to wrench oneself from what is manifest to what is hidden, is to offend faith on the very threshold. Now, even suppose that you are initiated into the entire fable, will it not occur to you that you have heard something very like it from your fond nurse 6649 when you were a baby, amongst p. 505 the lullabies she sang to you 6650 about the towers of Lamia, and the horns of the sun? 6651 Let, however, any man approach the subject from a knowledge of the faith which he has otherwise learned, as soon as he finds so many names of Æons, so many marriages, so many offsprings, so many exits, so many issues, felicities and infelicities of a dispersed and mutilated Deity, will that man hesitate at once to pronounce that these are “the fables and endless genealogies” which the inspired apostle 6652 by anticipation condemned, whilst these seeds of heresy were even then shooting forth? Deservedly, therefore, must they be regarded as wanting in simplicity, and as merely prudent, who produce such fables not without difficulty, and defend them only indirectly, who at the same time do not thoroughly instruct those whom they teach. This, of course, shows their astuteness, if their lessons are disgraceful; their unkindness, if they are honourable. As for us, however, who are the simple folk, we know all about it. In short, this is the very first weapon with which we are armed for our encounter; it unmasks 6653 and brings to view 6654 the whole of their depraved system. 6655 And in this we have the first augury of our victory; because even merely to point out that which is concealed with so great an outlay of artifice, 6656 is to destroy it.





Per anfractus.


Nec semel totus.


By this remark it would seem that Tertullian read sundry passages in his Latin Bible similarly to the subsequent Vulgate version. For instance, in Zech. vi. 12, the prophet’s words וֹמשְׁ המַצ” שׁיאִ־הנּ”הִ (“Behold the Man, whose name is the Branch”), are rendered in the Vulgate, “Ecce Vir Oriens nomen ejus.” Similarly in Zech. iii. 8, “Servum meum adducam Orientem.” (Compare Luke i. 78, where the ᾽Ανατολὴ ἐξ ὕψ·ους (“the day-spring from on high”) is in the same version “Oriens ex alto.”)


Or, perhaps, “whom it (nature) feels in all its works.”




Alloquin a turba eorum et aliam frequentiam suadere: which perhaps is best rendered, “But from one rabble of gods to frame and teach men to believe in another set,” etc.


A nutricula.


Inter somni difficultates.


These were child’s stories at Carthage in Tertullian’s days.


Apostoli spiritus: see 1 Tim. i. 4.






Totius conscientiæ illorum.


Tanto impendio.

Next: The Heresy Traceable to Valentinus, an Able But Restless Man. Many Schismatical Leaders of the School Mentioned. Only One of Them Shows Respect to the Man Whose Name Designates the Entire School.