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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part I: The Soul's Origin Defined Out of the Simple Words of Scripture.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter III.—The Soul’s Origin Defined Out of the Simple Words of Scripture.

Would to God that no “heresies had been ever necessary, in order that they which are approved may be made manifest!” 1507 We should then be never required to try our strength in contests about the soul with philosophers, those patriarchs of heretics, as they may be fairly called. 1508 The apostle, so far back as his own time, foresaw, indeed, that philosophy would do violent injury to the truth. 1509 This admonition about false philosophy he was induced to offer after he had been at Athens, had become acquainted with that loquacious city, 1510 and had there had a taste of its huckstering wiseacres and talkers. In like manner is the treatment of the soul according to the sophistical doctrines of men which “mix their p. 184 wine with water.” 1511 Some of them deny the immortality of the soul; others affirm that it is immortal, and something more. Some raise disputes about its substance; others about its form; others, again, respecting each of its several faculties. One school of philosophers derives its state from various sources, while another ascribes its departure to different destinations. The various schools reflect the character of their masters, according as they have received their impressions from the dignity 1512 of Plato, or the vigour 1513 of Zeno, or the equanimity 1514 of Aristotle, or the stupidity 1515 of Epicurus, or the sadness 1516 of Heraclitus, or the madness 1517 of Empedocles. The fault, I suppose, of the divine doctrine lies in its springing from Judæa 1518 rather than from Greece. Christ made a mistake, too, in sending forth fishermen to preach, rather than the sophist. Whatever noxious vapours, accordingly, exhaled from philosophy, obscure the clear and wholesome atmosphere of truth, it will be for Christians to clear away, both by shattering to pieces the arguments which are drawn from the principles of things—I mean those of the philosophers—and by opposing to them the maxims of heavenly wisdom—that is, such as are revealed by the Lord; in order that both the pitfalls wherewith philosophy captivates the heathen may be removed, and the means employed by heresy to shake the faith of Christians may be repressed. We have already decided one point in our controversy with Hermogenes, as we said at the beginning of this treatise, when we claimed the soul to be formed by the breathing 1519 of God, and not out of matter. We relied even there on the clear direction of the inspired statement which informs us how that “the Lord God breathed on man’s face the breath of life, so that man became a living soul” 1520 —by that inspiration of God, of course. On this point, therefore, nothing further need be investigated or advanced by us. It has its own treatise, 1521 and its own heretic. I shall regard it as my introduction to the other branches of the subject.



1 Cor. x. 19.


Compare Tertullian’s Adv. Hermog. c. viii.


Col. ii. 8.


Linguatam civitatem. Comp. Acts xvii. 21.


Isa. i. 22.




Vigor. Another reading has “rigor” (ακληρότης), harshness.










Isa. ii. 3.




Gen. ii. 7.



Next: In Opposition to Plato, the Soul Was Created and Originated at Birth.

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