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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:
Lactantius: Chap. XII.—Of the birth of Jesus from the Virgin; of his life, death, and resurrection, and the testimonies of the prophets respecting these things

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chap. XII.—Of the Birth of Jesus from the Virgin; Of His Life, Death, and Resurrection, and the Testimonies of the Prophets Respecting These Things.

Therefore the Holy Spirit of God, descending from heaven, chose the holy Virgin, that He might enter into her womb. 599 But she, being filled by the possession 600 of the Divine Spirit, conceived; and without any intercourse with a man, her virgin womb was suddenly impregned. But if it is known to all that certain animals are accustomed to conceive 601 by the wind and the breeze, why should any one think it wonderful when we say that a virgin was made fruitful by the Spirit of God, to whom whatever He may wish is easy? And this might have appeared incredible, had not the prophets many ages previously foretold its occurrence. Thus Solomon speaks: 602 “The womb of a virgin was strengthened, and conceived; and a virgin was made fruitful, and became a mother in great pity.” Likewise the prophet Isaiah, 603 whose words are these: “Therefore God Himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son; and ye shall call His name Emmanuel.” What can be more manifest than this? This was read by the Jews, who denied Him. If any one thinks that these things are invented by us, let him inquire of them, let him take especially from them: the testimony is sufficiently strong to prove the truth, when it is alleged by enemies themselves. But He was never called Emmanuel, but Jesus, who in Latin is called Saving, or Saviour, 604 because He comes bringing salvation to all nations. But by this name the prophet declared that God incarnate was about to come to men. For Emmanuel signifies God with us; because when He was born of a virgin, men ought to confess that God was with them, that is, on the earth and in mortal flesh. Whence David 605 says in the eighty-fourth Psalm, “Truth has sprung out of the earth;” because God, in whom is truth, hath taken a body of earth, that He might open a way of salvation to those of the earth. In like manner Isaiah also: 606 “But they disbelieved, and vexed His Holy p. 111 Spirit; and He was turned to be their enemy. And He Himself fought against them, and He remembered the days of old, 607 who raised up from the earth a shepherd of the sheep.” But who this shepherd was about to be, he declared in another place, 608 saying: “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the clouds put on righteousness; let the earth open, and put forth a Saviour. For I the Lord have begotten Him.” But the Saviour is, as we have said before, Jesus. But in another place the same prophet also thus proclaimed: 609 “Behold, unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, whose dominion is upon His shoulders, and His name is called Messenger of great counsel.” For on this account He was sent by God the Father, that He might reveal to all the nations which are under heaven the sacred mystery of the only true God, which was taken away from the perfidious people, who ofttimes sinned against God. Daniel also foretold similar things: 610 “I saw,” he said, “in a vision of the night, and, behold, one like the Son of man coming with the clouds of heaven, and He came even to the Ancient of days. And they who stood by brought Him near 611 before Him. And there was given unto Him a kingdom, and glory, and dominion; and all people, tribes, and languages shall serve Him: and His dominion is everlasting, which shall never pass away, and His kingdom shall not be destroyed.” How then do the Jews both confess and expect the Christ of God? who rejected Him on this account, because He was born of man. For since it is so arranged by God that the same Christ should twice come to the earth, once to announce to the nations the one God, then again to reign, why do they who did not believe in His first advent believe in the second?  

But the prophet comprises both His advents in few words. Behold, he says, one like the Son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He did not say, like the Son of God, but the Son of man, that he might show that He had 612 to be clothed with flesh on the earth, that having assumed the form of a man and the condition of mortality, He might teach men righteousness; and when, having completed the commands of God, He had revealed the truth to the nations, He might also suffer death, that He might overcome and lay open 613 the other world also, and thus at length rising again, He might proceed to His Father borne aloft on a cloud. 614 For the prophet said in addition: And came even to the Ancient of days, and was presented to Him. He called the Most High God the Ancient of days, whose age and origin cannot be comprehended; for He alone was from generations, and He will be always to generations. 615 But that Christ, after His passion and resurrection, was about to ascend to God the Father, David bore witness in these words in the cixth Psalm: 616 “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” Whom could this prophet, being himself a king, call his Lord, who sat at the right hand of God, but Christ the Son of God, who is King of kings and Lord of lords? And this is more plainly shown by Isaiah, 617 when he says: “Thus saith the Lord God to my Lord Christ, whose right hand I have holden; I will subdue nations before Him, and will break the strength of kings. I will open before Him gates, and the cities shall not be closed. I will go before Thee, and will make the mountains level; and I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and shatter the bars of iron; and I will give Thee the hidden and invisible treasures, that Thou mayest know that I am the Lord God, which call Thee by Thy name, the God of Israel.” Lastly, on account of the goodness and faithfulness which He displayed towards God on earth, there was given to Him a kingdom, and glory, and dominion; and all people, tribes, and languages shall serve Him; and His dominion is everlasting, and that which shall never pass away, and His kingdom shall not be destroyed. And this is understood in two ways: that even now He has an everlasting dominion, when all nations and all languages adore His name, confess His majesty, follow His teaching, and imitate His goodness: He has power and glory, in that all tribes of the earth obey His precepts. And also, when He shall come again with majesty and glory to judge every soul, and to restore the righteous to life, then He shall truly have the government of the whole earth: then, every evil having been removed from the affairs of men, a golden age (as the poets call it), that is, a time of righteousness and peace, will arise. But we will speak of these things more fully in the last book, when we shall speak of His second advent; now let us treat of His first advent, as we began.  


Footnotes

110:599

Se insinuaret.  

110:600

Divino spiritu hausto.  

110:601

So Virgil, Georgic iii. 274:—  

“Et sæpe sine ullis
Conjugiis vento gravidæ, mirabile dictu.”

This theory of the impregnation of mares by the wind was general among the ancients.  

110:602

This passage does not occur in the writings of Solomon, or in the Old Testament. [Possibly from some copy (North African) of the “Book of Wisdom,” interpolated from a marginal comment.]  

110:603

Isa. vii. 14.  

110:604

Salutaris, sive Salvator.  

110:605

Ps. lxxxv. 12, quoted from the Septuagint.  

110:606

Isa. lxiii. 10.  

111:607

The days of the age. In the next clause the text differs both from the Hebrew and the Septuagint—which the English authorized version follows—“who raised up out of the sea.”  

111:608

Isa. xlv. 8, quoted from the Septuagint.  

111:609

Isa. ix. 6, from the Septuagint.  

111:610

Dan. 7:13, 14.  

111:611

Obtulerunt eum, “presented Him.”  

111:612

Quod carne indui haberet in terrâ. Another reading is “deberet,” but the present is in accordance with the style of Lactantius.  

111:613

Inferos resignaret.  

111:614

Acts i. 9: “A cloud received Him out of their sight.”  

111:615

Ps. xc. 2.  

111:616

Ps. cx. 1.  

111:617

Isa. xlv. 1-3. The quotation is from the Septuagint. It expressly refers to Cyrus, whom God raised up to accomplish His will; but the prophecy may have a further reference to Christ, as is here supposed.  


Next: Chap. XIII.—Of Jesus, God and man; and the testimonies of the prophets concerning him

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