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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: Some Considerations in Reply Eulogistic of the Flesh. It Was Created by God. The Body of Man Was, in Fact, Previous to His Soul.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter V.—Some Considerations in Reply Eulogistic of the Flesh. It Was Created by God. The Body of Man Was, in Fact, Previous to His Soul.

Inasmuch as all uneducated men, therefore, still form their opinions after these common-sense views, and as the falterers and the weak-minded have a renewal of their perplexities occasioned by the selfsame views; and as the first battering-ram which is directed against ourselves is that which shatters the condition of the flesh, we must on our side necessarily so manage our defences, as to guard, first of all, the condition of the flesh, their disparagement of it being repulsed by our own eulogy. The heretics, therefore, challenged us to use our rhetoric no less than our philosophy. Respecting, then, this frail and poor, worthless body, which they do not indeed hesitate to call evil, even if it had been the work of angels, as Menander and Marcus are pleased to think, or the formation of some fiery being, an angel, as Apelles teaches, it would be quite enough for securing respect for the body, that it had the support and protection of even a secondary deity.  The angels, we know, rank next to God.  Now, whatever be the supreme God of each heretic, I should not unfairly derive the dignity of the flesh likewise from Him to whom was present the will for its production. For, of course, if He had not willed its production, He would have prohibited it, when He knew it was in progress. It follows, then, that even on their principle the flesh is equally the work of God. There is no work but belongs to Him who has permitted it to exist. It is indeed a happy circumstance, that most of their doctrines, including even the harshest, accord to our God the entire formation of man.  How mighty He is, you know full well who believe that He is the only God. Let, then, the flesh begin to give you pleasure, since the Creator thereof is so great. But, you say, even the world is the work of God, and yet “the fashion of this p. 549 world passeth away,” 7316 as the apostle himself testifies; nor must it be predetermined that the world will be restored, simply because it is the work of God. And surely if the universe, after its ruin, is not to be formed again, why should a portion of it be? You are right, if a portion is on an equality with the whole. But we maintain that there is a difference. In the first place, because all things were made by the Word of God, and without Him was nothing made. 7317 Now the flesh, too, had its existence from the Word of God, because of the principle, 7318 that here should be nothing without that Word.  “Let us make man,” 7319 said He, before He created him, and added, “with our hand,” for the sake of his pre-eminence, that so he might not be compared with the rest of creation. 7320 And “God,” says (the Scripture), “formed man.” 7321 There is undoubtedly a great difference in the procedure, springing of course from the nature of the case. For the creatures which were made were inferior to him for whom they were made; and they were made for man, to whom they were afterwards made subject by God.  Rightly, therefore, had the creatures which were thus intended for subjection, come forth into being at the bidding and command and sole power of the divine voice; whilst man, on the contrary, destined to be their lord, was formed by God Himself, to the intent that he might be able to exercise his mastery, being created by the Master the Lord Himself. Remember, too, that man is properly called flesh, which had a prior occupation in man’s designation: “And God formed man the clay of the ground.” 7322 He now became man, who was hitherto clay. “And He breathed upon his face the breath of life, and man (that is, the clay) became a living soul; and God placed the man whom He had formed in the garden.” 7323 So that man was clay at first, and only afterwards man entire. I wish to impress this on your attention, with a view to your knowing, that whatever God has at all purposed or promised to man, is due not to the soul simply, but to the flesh also; if not arising out of any community in their origin, yet at all events by the privilege possessed by the latter in its name. 7324


Footnotes

549:7316

1 Cor. vii. 31.

549:7317

John i. 3.

549:7318

Formam.

549:7319

Gen. i. 26.

549:7320

Universitati.

549:7321

Gen. i. 27.

549:7322

Limum de terra: Gen. ii. 7.

549:7323

Gen. 2:7, 8.

549:7324

It having just been said that flesh was man’s prior designation.


Next: Not the Lowliness of the Material, But the Dignity and Skill of the Maker, Must Be Remembered, in Gauging the Excellence of the Flesh. Christ Partook of Our Flesh.

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