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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part I: Idols Not to Be Made, Much Less Worshipped. Idols and Idol-Makers in the Same Category.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter IV.—Idols Not to Be Made, Much Less Worshipped. Idols and Idol-Makers in the Same Category.

God prohibits an idol as much to be made as to be worshipped. In so far as the making what may be worshipped is the prior act, so far is the prohibition to make (if the worship is unlawful) the prior prohibition. For this cause—the eradicating, namely, of the material of idolatry—the divine law proclaims, “Thou shalt make no idol;” 179 and by conjoining, “Nor a similitude of the things which are in the heaven, and which are in the earth, and which are in the sea,” has interdicted the servants of God from acts of that kind all the universe over. Enoch had preceded, predicting that “the demons, and the spirits of the angelic apostates, 180 would turn into idolap. 63 try all the elements, all the garniture of the universe, all things contained in the heaven, in the sea, in the earth, that they might be consecrated as God, in opposition to God.” All things, therefore, does human error worship, except the Founder of all Himself.  The images of those things are idols; the consecration of the images is idolatry. Whatever guilt idolatry incurs, must necessarily be imputed to every artificer of every idol. In short, the same Enoch fore-condemns in general menace both idol-worshippers and idol-makers together. And again:  “I swear to you, sinners, that against the day of perdition of blood 181 repentance is being prepared. Ye who serve stones, and ye who make images of gold, and silver, and wood, and stones and clay, and serve phantoms, and demons, and spirits in fanes, 182 and all errors not according to knowledge, shall find no help from them.” But Isaiah 183 says, “Ye are witnesses whether there is a God except Me.” “And they who mould and carve out at that time were not: all vain! who do that which liketh them, which shall not profit them!” And that whole ensuing discourse sets a ban as well on the artificers as the worshippers:  the close of which is, “Learn that their heart is ashes and earth, and that none can free his own soul.” In which sentence David equally includes the makers too. “Such,” says he, “let them become who make them.” 184 And why should I, a man of limited memory, suggest anything further? Why recall anything more from the Scriptures? As if either the voice of the Holy Spirit were not sufficient; or else any further deliberation were needful, whether the Lord cursed and condemned by priority the artificers of those things, of which He curses and condemns the worshippers!



Lev. 26:1, Exod. 20:4, Deut. 5:8. It must of course be borne in mind that Tertullian has defined the meaning of the word idol in the former chapter, and speaks with reference to that definition.


Compare de Oratione, c. 23, and de Virg. Vel. c. 7.


“Sanguinis perditionis:” such is the reading of Oehler and others. If it be correct, probably the phrase “perdition of blood” must be taken as equivalent to “bloody perdition,” after the Hebrew fashion. Compare, for similar instances, 2 Sam. 16:7, Ps. 5:6, Ps. 26:9, Ps. 55:23, Ezek. 22:2, with the marginal readings. But Fr. Junius would read, “Of blood and of perdition”—sanguinis et perditionis. Oehler’s own interpretation of the reading he gives—“blood-shedding”—appears unsatisfactory.


“In fanis.” This is Oehler’s reading on conjecture. Other readings are—infamis, infamibus, insanis, infernis.


Isa. xliv. 8 et seqq.


Ps. cxv. 8. In our version, “They that make them are like unto them.” Tertullian again agrees with the LXX.

Next: Sundry Objections or Excuses Dealt with.

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