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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: What St. Paul Calls Spiritual Wickednesses Displayed by Pagan Authors, and by Heretics, in No Dissimilar Manner. Holy Scripture Especially Liable to Heretical Manipulation. Affords Material for Heresies, Just as Virgil Has Been the Groundwork of Literary Plagiarisms, Different in Purport from the Original.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXXIX.—What St. Paul Calls Spiritual Wickednesses Displayed by Pagan Authors, and by Heretics, in No Dissimilar Manner. Holy Scripture Especially Liable to Heretical Manipulation.  Affords Material for Heresies, Just as Virgil Has Been the Groundwork of Literary Plagiarisms, Different in Purport from the Original.

These were the ingenious arts of “spiritual wickednesses,” 2259 wherewith we also, my brethren, may fairly expect to have “to wrestle,” as necessary for faith, that the elect may be made manifest, (and) that the reprobate may be discovered. And therefore they possess influence, and a facility in thinking out and fabricating 2260 errors, which ought not to be wondered at as if it were a difficult and inexplicable process, seeing that in profane writings also an example comes ready to hand of a similar facility. You see in our own day, composed out of Virgil, 2261 a story of a wholly different character, the subject-matter being arranged according to the verse, and the verse according to the subject-matter. In short, 2262 Hosidius Geta has most completely pilfered his tragedy of Medea from Virgil. A near relative of my own, among some leisure productions 2263 of his pen, has composed out of the same poet The Table of Cebes. On the same principle, those poetasters are commonly called Homerocentones, “collectors of Homeric odds and ends,” who stitch into one piece, patchwork fashion, works of their own from the lines of Homer, out of many scraps put together from this passage and from that (in miscellaneous confusion). Now, unquestionably, the Divine Scriptures are more fruitful in resources of all kinds for this sort of facility. Nor do I risk contradiction in saying 2264 that the very Scriptures were even arranged by the will of God in such a manner as to furnish materials for heretics, inasmuch as I read that “there must be heresies,” 2265 which there cannot be without the Scriptures.


Footnotes

262:2259

See Eph. 6:12, 1 Cor. 11:18.

262:2260

Instruendis.

262:2261

Oehler reads “ex Vergilio,” although the Codex Agobard. as “ex Virgilio.”

262:2262

Denique. [“Getica lyra.”]

262:2263

Otis.

262:2264

Nec periclitor dicere. [Truly, a Tertullianic paradox; but compare 2 Pet. iii. 16. N.B. Scripture the test of heresy.]

262:2265

1 Cor. xi. 19.


Next: No Difference in the Spirit of Idolatry and of Heresy. In the Rites of Idolatry, Satan Imitated and Distorted the Divine Institutions of the Older Scriptures. The Christian Scriptures Corrupted by Him in the Perversions of the Various Heretics.

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