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Chapter VIII.—The Names and Descent of Other Æons; First Half a Score, Then Two More, and Ultimately a Dozen Besides. These Thirty Constitute the Pleroma. But Why Be So Capricious as to Stop at Thirty?

For, behold, when the second Tetrad—Sermo and Vita, Homo and Ecclesia 6697 —had borne fruit to the Father’s glory, having an intense desire of themselves to present to the Father something similar of their own, they bring other issue into being 6698 —conjugal of course, as the others were 6699 —by the union of the twofold nature. On the one hand, Sermo and Vita pour out at a birth a half-score of Æons; on the other hand, Homo and Ecclesia produce a couple more, so furnishing an equipoise to their parents, since this pair with the other ten make up just as many as they did themselves procreate. I now give the names of the half-score whom I have mentioned:  Bythios (Profound) and Mixis (Mixture), Ageratos (Never old) and Henosis (Union), Autophyes (Essential nature) and Hedone (Pleasure), Acinetos (Immoveable) and Syncrasis (Commixture,) Monogenes (Only-begotten) and Macaria (Happiness). On the other hand, these will make up the number twelve (to which I have also referred):  Paracletus (Comforter) and Pistis (Faith), Patricas (Paternal) and Elpis (Hope), Metricos (Maternal) and Agape (Love), Ainos (Praise6700 and Synesis (Intelligence), Ecclesiasticus (Son of Ecclesia) and Macariotes (Blessedness), Theletus 6701 (Perfect) and Sophia (Wisdom).  I cannot help 6702 here quoting from a like example what may serve to show the import of p. 508 these names. In the schools of Carthage there was once a certain Latin rhetorician, an excessively cool fellow, 6703 whose name was Phosphorus. He was personating a man of valour, and wound up 6704 with saying, “I come to you, excellent citizens, from battle, with victory for myself, with happiness for you, full of honour, covered with glory, the favourite of fortune, the greatest of men, decked with triumph.” And forthwith his scholars begin to shout for the school of Phosphorus, φεῦ 6705 (ah!).  Are you a believer in 6706 Fortunata, and Hedone, and Acinetus, and Theletus? Then shout out your φεῦ for the school of Ptolemy. 6707 This must be that mystery of the Pleroma, the fulness of the thirty-fold divinity. Let us see what special attributes 6708 belong to these numbers—four, and eight, and twelve. Meanwhile with the number thirty all fecundity ceases. The generating force and power and desire of the Æons is spent. 6709 As if there were not still left some strong rennet for curdling numbers. 6710 As if no other names were to be got out of the page’s hall! 6711 For why are there not sets of fifty and of a hundred procreated? Why, too, are there no comrades and boon companions 6712 named for them?



We everywhere give Tertullian’s own names, whether of Greek form or Latin. On their first occurrence we also give their English sense.




Proinde conjugales.


Of this name there are two forms—Αἶνος (Praise) and ᾽Αεινοῦς (Eternal Mind).


Or Τελετός (Teletus). Another form of this Æon’s name is Φιλητός (Philetus = Beloved). Oehler always reads Theletus.






Cum virum fortem peroraret…inquit.


Tertullian’s joke lies in the equivocal sense of this cry, which may mean either admiration and joy, or grief and rage.


Audisti: interrogatively.


See above, chap. iv. p. 505.






Tanta numerorum coagula.


The pædagogium was either the place where boys were trained as pages (often for lewd purposes), or else the boy himself of such a character.


Oehler reads, “hetæri (ἑταῖροι) et syntrophi.” Another reading, supported by Rigaltius, is “sterceiæ,” instead of the former word, which gives a very contemptuous sense, suitable to Tertullian’s irony.

Next: Other Capricious Features in the System. The Æons Unequal in Attributes. The Superiority of Nus; The Vagaries of Sophia Restrained by Horos. Grand Titles Borne by This Last Power.