Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part I: The Charge of Infanticide Retorted on the Heathen.
Chapter XV. 686 —The Charge of Infanticide Retorted on the Heathen.
Since we are on a par in respect of the gods, it follows that there is no difference between us on the point of sacrifice, or even of worship, 687 if I may be allowed to make good our comparison from another sort of evidence. We begin our religious service, or initiate our mysteries, with slaying an infant. As for you, since your own transactions in human blood and infanticide have faded from your memory, you shall be duly reminded of them in the proper place; we now postpone most of the instances, that we may not seem to be everywhere 688 handling the selfsame topics. Meanwhile, as I have said, the comparison between us does not fail in another point of view. For if we are infanticides in one sense, you also can hardly be deemed such in any other sense; because, although you are forbidden by the laws to slay new-born infants, it so happens that no laws are evaded with more impunity or greater safety, with the deliberate knowledge of the public, and the suffrages 689 of this entire age. 690 Yet there is no great difference between us, only you do not kill your infants in the way of a sacred rite, nor (as a service) to God. But then you make away with them in a more cruel manner, p. 124 because you expose them to the cold and hunger, and to wild beasts, or else you get rid of them by the slower death of drowning. If, however, there does occur any dissimilarity between us in this matter, 691 you must not overlook the fact that it is your own dear children 692 whose life you quench; and this will supplement, nay, abundantly aggravate, on your side of the question, whatever is defective in us on other grounds. Well, but we are said to sup off our impious sacrifice! Whilst we postpone to a more suitable place 693 whatever resemblance even to this practice is discoverable amongst yourselves, we are not far removed from you in voracity. If in the one case there is unchastity, and in ours cruelty, we are still on the same footing (if I may so far admit our guilt 694 ) in nature, where cruelty is always found in concord with unchastity. But, after all, what do you less than we; or rather, what do you not do in excess of us? I wonder whether it be a small matter to you 695 to pant for human entrails, because you devour full-grown men alive? Is it, forsooth, only a trifle to lick up human blood, when you draw out 696 the blood which was destined to live? Is it a light thing in your view to feed on an infant, when you consume one wholly before it is come to the birth? 697
Comp. The Apology, c. ix.123:687
He refers in this passage to his Apology, especially c. ix.123:689
Unius ætatis. This Oehler explains by “per unam jam totam hanc ætatem.”124:691
Pignora, scil. amoris.124:693
See Apology, c. ix.124:694
Infantem totum præcocum.
Next: Other Charges Repelled by the Same Method. The Story of the Noble Roman Youth and His Parents.
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