Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: Christ Born of a Virgin, of Her Substance. The Physiological Facts of His Real and Exact Birth of a Human Mother, as Suggested by Certain Passages of Scripture.
Chapter XX.—Christ Born of a Virgin, of Her Substance. The Physiological Facts of His Real and Exact Birth of a Human Mother, as Suggested by Certain Passages of Scripture.
But to what shifts you resort, in your attempt to rob the syllable ex (of) 7211 of its proper force as a preposition, and to substitute another for it in a sense not found throughout the Holy Scriptures! You say that He was born through 7212 a virgin, not of 7213 a virgin, and in a womb, not of a womb, because the angel in the dream said to Joseph, “That which is born in her” (not of her) “is of the Holy Ghost.” 7214 But the fact is, if he had meant “of her,” he must have said “in her;” for that which was of her, was also in her. The angels expression, therefore, “in her,” has precisely the same meaning as the phrase “of her.” It is, however, a fortunate circumstance that Matthew also, when tracing down the Lords descent from Abraham to Mary, says, “Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Christ.” 7215 But Paul, too, silences these critics 7216 when he says, “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman.” 7217 Does he mean through a woman, or in a woman? Nay more, for the sake of greater emphasis, he uses the word “made” rather than born, although the use of the latter expression would have been simpler. But by saying “made,” he not only confirmed the statement, “The Word was made flesh,” 7218 but he also asserted the reality of the flesh which was made of a virgin. We shall have also the support of the Psalms on this point, not the “Psalms” indeed of Valentinus the apostate, and heretic, and Platonist, but the Psalms of David, the most illustrious saint and well-known prophet. He sings to us of Christ, and through his voice Christ indeed also sang concerning Himself. Hear, then, Christ the Lord speaking to God the Father: “Thou art He that didst draw 7219 me out of my p. 539 mothers womb.” 7220 Here is the first point. “Thou art my hope from my mothers breasts; upon Thee have I been cast from the womb.” 7221 Here is another point. “Thou art my God from my mothers belly.” 7222 Here is a third point. Now let us carefully attend to the sense of these passages. “Thou didst draw me,” He says, “out of the womb.” Now what is it which is drawn, if it be not that which adheres, that which is firmly fastened to anything from which it is drawn in order to be sundered? If He clove not to the womb, how could He have been drawn from it? If He who clove thereto was drawn from it, how could He have adhered to it, if it were not that, all the while He was in the womb, He was tied to it, as to His origin, 7223 by the umbilical cord, which communicated growth to Him from the matrix? Even when one strange matter amalgamates with another, it becomes so entirely incorporated 7224 with that with which it amalgamates, that when it is drawn off from it, it carries with it some part of the body from which it is torn, as if in consequence of the severance of the union and growth which the constituent pieces had communicated to each other. But what were His “mothers breasts” which He mentions? No doubt they were those which He sucked. Midwives, and doctors, and naturalists, can tell us, from the nature of womens breasts, whether they usually flow at any other time than when the womb is affected with pregnancy, when the veins convey therefrom the blood of the lower parts 7225 to the mamilla, and in the act of transference convert the secretion into the nutritious 7226 substance of milk. Whence it comes to pass that during the period of lactation the monthly issues are suspended. But if the Word was made flesh of Himself without any communication with a womb, no mothers womb operating upon Him with its usual function and support, how could the lacteal fountain have been conveyed (from the womb) to the breasts, since (the womb) can only effect the change by actual possession of the proper substance? But it could not possibly have had blood for transformation into milk, unless it possessed the causes of blood also, that is to say, the severance (by birth) 7227 of its own flesh from the mothers womb. Now it is easy to see what was the novelty of Christs being born of a virgin. It was simply this, that (He was born) of a virgin in the real manner which we have indicated, in order that our regeneration might have virginal purity,—spiritually cleansed from all pollutions through Christ, who was Himself a virgin, even in the flesh, in that He was born of a virgins flesh.
Indicating the material or ingredient, “out of.”538:7212
Matt. i. 20.538:7215
Matt. i. 16.538:7216
Gal. iv. 4.538:7218
John i. 14.538:7219
Ps. xxii. 9.539:7221
Ps. 22:9, 10.539:7222
i.e. of His flesh.539:7224
Concarnatus et convisceratus: “united in flesh and internal structure.”539:7225
Sentinam illam inferni sanguinis.539:7226
Next: The Word of God Did Not Become Flesh Except in the Virgin's Womb and of Her Substance. Through His Mother He is Descended from Her Great Ancestor David. He is Described Both in the Old and in the New Testament as “The Fruit of David's Loins.”
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