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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part I: Of the Prophecies of the Birth and Achievements of Christ.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter IX.—Of the Prophecies of the Birth and Achievements of Christ.

Begin we, therefore, to prove that the Birth p. 161 of Christ was announced by prophets; as Isaiah (e.g.,) foretells, “Hear ye, house of David; no petty contest have ye with men, since God is proposing a struggle. Therefore God Himself will give you a sign; Behold, the virgin 1250 shall conceive, and bear a son, and ye shall call his name Emmanuel” 1251 (which is, interpreted, “God with us” 1252 ): “butter and honey shall he eat;” 1253 : “since, ere the child learn to call father or mother, he shall receive the power of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria, in opposition to the king of the Assyrians.” 1254

Accordingly the Jews say: Let us challenge that prediction of Isaiah, and let us institute a comparison whether, in the case of the Christ who is already come, there be applicable to Him, firstly, the name which Isaiah foretold, and (secondly) the signs of it 1255 which he announced of Him.

Well, then, Isaiah foretells that it behoves Him to be called Emmanuel; and that subsequently He is to take the power of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria, in opposition to the king of the Assyrians. “Now,” say they, “that (Christ) of yours, who is come, neither was called by that name, nor engaged in warfare.” But we, on the contrary, have thought they ought to be admonished to recall to mind the context of this passage as well. For subjoined is withal the interpretation of Emmanuel—“God with us” 1256 —in order that you may regard not the sound only of the name, but the sense too. For the Hebrew sound, which is Emmanuel, has an interpretation, which is, God with us. Inquire, then, whether this speech, “God with us” (which is Emmanuel), be commonly applied to Christ ever since Christ’s light has dawned, and I think you will not deny it. For they who out of Judaism believe in Christ, ever since their believing on Him, do, whenever they shall wish to say 1257 Emmanuel, signify that God is with us:  and thus it is agreed that He who was ever predicted as Emmanuel is already come, because that which Emmanuel signifies is come—that is, “God with us.” Equally are they led by the sound of the name when they so understand “the power of Damascus,” and “the spoils of Samaria,” and “the kingdom of the Assyrians,” as if they portended Christ as a warrior; not observing that Scripture premises, “since, ere the child learn to call father or mother, he shall receive the power of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria, in opposition to the king of the Assyrians.” For the first step is to look at the demonstration of His age, to see whether the age there indicated can possibly exhibit the Christ as already a man, not to say a general. Forsooth, by His babyish cry the infant would summon men to arms, and would give the signal of war not with clarion, but with rattle, and point out the foe, not from His charger’s back or from a rampart, but from the back or neck of His suckler and nurse, and thus subdue Damascus and Samaria in place of the breast. (It is another matter if, among you, infants rush out into battle,—oiled first, I suppose, to dry in the sun, and then armed with satchels and rationed on butter,—who are to know how to lance sooner than how to lacerate the bosom!) 1258 Certainly, if nature nowhere allows this,—(namely,) to serve as a soldier before developing into manhood, to take “the power of Damascus” before knowing your father,—it follows that the pronouncement is visibly figurative.  “But again,” say they, “nature suffers not a ‘virgin’ to be a parent; and yet the prophet must be believed.”  And deservedly so; for he bespoke credit for a thing incredible, by saying that it was to be a sign. “Therefore,” he says, “shall a sign be given you. Behold, a virgin shall conceive in womb, and bear a son.” But a sign from God, unless it had consisted in some portentous novelty, would not have appeared a sign. In a word, if, when you are anxious to cast any down from (a belief in) this divine prediction, or to convert whoever are simple, you have the audacity to lie, as if the Scripture contained (the announcement), that not “a virgin,” but “a young female,” was to conceive and bring forth; you are refuted even by this fact, that a daily occurrence—the pregnancy and parturition of a young female, namely—cannot possibly seem anything of a sign. And the setting before us, then, of a virgin-mother is deservedly believed to be a sign; but not equally so a warrior-infant.  For there would not in this case again be involved the question of a sign; but, the sign of a novel birth having been awarded, the next step after the sign is, that there is enunciated a different ensuing ordering 1259 of the infant, who is to eat “honey and butter.” Nor is this, of course, for a sign.  It is natural to infancy. But that he p. 162 is to receive 1260 “the power of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria in opposition to the king of the Assyrians,” this is a wondrous sign. Keep to the limit of (the infant’s) age, and inquire into the sense of the prediction; nay, rather, repay to truth what you are unwilling to credit her with, and the prophecy becomes intelligible by the relation of its fulfilment. Let those Eastern magi be believed, dowering with gold and incense the infancy of Christ as a king; 1261 and the infant has received “the power of Damascus” without battle and arms. For, besides the fact that it is known to all that the “power”—for that is the “strength”—of the East is wont to abound in gold and odours, certain it is that the divine Scriptures regard “gold” as constituting the “power” also of all other nations; as it says 1262 through Zechariah: “And Judah keepeth guard at Jerusalem, and shall amass all the vigour of the surrounding peoples, gold and silver.” 1263 For of this gift of “gold” David likewise says, “And to Him shall be given of the gold of Arabia;” 1264 and again, “The kings of the Arabs and Saba shall bring Him gifts.” 1265 For the East, on the one hand, generally held the magi (to be) kings; and Damascus, on the other hand, used formerly to be reckoned to Arabia before it was transferred into Syrophœnicia on the division of the Syrias: the “power” whereof Christ then “received” in receiving its ensigns,—gold, to wit, and odours. “The spoils,” moreover, “of Samaria” (He received in receiving) the magi themselves, who, on recognising Him, and honouring Him with gifts, and adoring Him on bended knee as Lord and King, on the evidence of the guiding and indicating star, became “the spoils of Samaria,” that is, of idolatry—by believing, namely, on Christ.  For (Scripture) denoted idolatry by the name of “Samaria,” Samaria being ignominious on the score of idolatry; for she had at that time revolted from God under King Jeroboam. For this, again, is no novelty to the Divine Scriptures, figuratively to use a transference of name grounded on parallelism of crimes. For it 1266 calls your rulers “rulers of Sodom,” and your people the “people of Gomorrha,” 1267 when those cities had already long been extinct. 1268 And elsewhere it says, through a prophet, to the people of Israel, “Thy father (was) an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite;” 1269 of whose race they were not begotten, but (were called their sons) by reason of their consimilarity in impiety, whom of old (God) had called His own sons through Isaiah the prophet: “I have generated and exalted sons.” 1270 So, too, Egypt is sometimes understood to mean the whole world 1271 in that prophet, on the count of superstition and malediction. 1272 So, again, Babylon, in our own John, is a figure of the city Rome, as being equally great and proud of her sway, and triumphant over the saints. 1273 On this wise, accordingly, (Scripture) 1274 entitled the magi also with the appellation of “Samaritans,”—“despoiled” (of that) which they had had in common with the Samaritans, as we have said—idolatry in opposition to the Lord.  (It 1275 adds), “in opposition,” moreover, “to the king of the Assyrians,”—in opposition to the devil, who to this hour thinks himself to be reigning, if he detrudes the saints from the religion of God.

Moreover, this our interpretation will be supported while (we find that) elsewhere as well the Scriptures designate Christ a warrior, as we gather from the names of certain weapons, and words of that kind. But by a comparison of the remaining senses the Jews shall be convicted.  “Gird thee,” says David, “the sword upon the thigh.” 1276 But what do you read above concerning the Christ? “Blooming in beauty above the sons of men; grace is outpoured in thy lips.” 1277 But very absurd it is if he was complimenting on the bloom of his beauty and the grace of his lips, one whom he was girding for war with a sword; of whom he proceeds subjunctively to say, “Outstretch and prosper, advance and reign!” And he has added, “because of thy lenity and justice.” 1278 Who will ply the sword without practising the contraries to lenity and justice; that is, guile, and asperity, and injustice, proper (of course) to the business of battles?  See we, then, whether that which has another action be not another sword,—that is, the Divine word of God, doubly sharpened 1279 with the two Testaments of the ancient law and the new law; sharpened by the equity of its own wisdom; rendering to each one according to his own action. 1280 Lawp. 163 ful , then, it was for the Christ of God to be precinct, in the Psalms, without warlike achievements, with the figurative sword of the word of God; to which sword is congruous the predicated “bloom,” together with the “grace of the lips;” with which sword He was then “girt upon the thigh,” in the eye of David, when He was announced as about to come to earth in obedience to God the Father’s decree. “The greatness of thy right hand,” he says, “shall conduct thee” 1281 —the virtue to wit, of the spiritual grace from which the recognition of Christ is deduced. “Thine arrows,” he says, “are sharp,” 1282 —God’s everywhere-flying precepts (arrows) threatening the exposure 1283 of every heart, and carrying compunction and transfixion to each conscience: “peoples shall fall beneath thee,” 1284 —of course, in adoration. Thus mighty in war and weapon-bearing is Christ; thus will He “receive the spoils,” not of “Samaria” alone, but of all nations as well.  Acknowledge that His “spoils” are figurative whose weapons you have learnt to be allegorical. And thus, so far, the Christ who is come was not a warrior, because He was not predicted as such by Isaiah.

“But if the Christ,” say they, “who is believed to be coming is not called Jesus, why is he who is come called Jesus Christ?” Well, each name will meet in the Christ of God, in whom is found likewise the appellation 1285 Jesus. Learn the habitual character of your error. In the course of the appointing of a successor to Moses, Oshea 1286 the son of Nun 1287 is certainly transferred from his pristine name, and begins to be called Jesus. 1288 Certainly, you say. This we first assert to have been a figure of the future. For, because Jesus Christ was to introduce the second people (which is composed of us nations, lingering deserted in the world 1289 aforetime) into the land of promise, “flowing with milk and honey” 1290 (that is, into the possession of eternal life, than which nought is sweeter); and this had to come about, not through Moses (that is, not through the Law’s discipline), but through Joshua (that is, through the new law’s grace), after our circumcision with “a knife of rock” 1291 (that is, with Christ’s precepts, for Christ is in many ways and figures predicted as a rock 1292 ); therefore the man who was being prepared to act as images of this sacrament was inaugurated under the figure of the Lord’s name, even so as to be named Jesus. 1293 For He who ever spake to Moses was the Son of God Himself; who, too, was always seen1294 For God the Father none ever saw, and lived. 1295 And accordingly it is agreed that the Son of God Himself spake to Moses, and said to the people, “Behold, I send mine angel before thy”—that is, the people’s—“face, to guard thee on the march, and to introduce thee into the land which I have prepared thee: attend to him, and be not disobedient to him; for he hath not escaped 1296 thy notice, since my name is upon him.” 1297 For Joshua was to introduce the people into the land of promise, not Moses. Now He called him an “angel,” on account of the magnitude of the mighty deeds which he was to achieve (which mighty deeds Joshua the son of Nun did, and you yourselves read), and on account of his office of prophet announcing (to wit) the divine will; just as withal the Spirit, speaking in the person of the Father, calls the forerunner of Christ, John, a future “angel,” through the prophet: “Behold, I send mine angel before Thy”—that is, Christ’s—“face, who shall prepare Thy way before Thee.” 1298 Nor is it a novel practice to the Holy Spirit to call those “angels” whom God has appointed as ministers of His power. For the same John is called not merely an “angel” of Christ, but withal a “lamp” shining before Christ: for David predicts, “I have prepared the lamp for my Christ;” 1299 and him Christ Himself, coming “to fulfil the prophets,” 1300 called so to the Jews. “He was,” He says, “the burning and shining lamp;” 1301 as being he who not merely “prepared His ways in the desert,” 1302 but withal, by pointing out “the Lamb of God,” 1303 illumined the minds of men by his heralding, so that they understood Him p. 164 to be that Lamb whom Moses was wont to announce as destined to suffer.  Thus, too, (was the son of Nun called) Joshua, on account of the future mystery 1304 of his name: for that name (He who spake with Moses) confirmed as His own which Himself had conferred on him, because He had bidden him thenceforth be called, not “angel” nor “Oshea,” but “Joshua.” Thus, therefore, each name is appropriate to the Christ of God—that He should be called Jesus as well (as Christ).

And that the virgin of whom it behoved Christ to be born (as we have above mentioned) must derive her lineage of the seed of David, the prophet in subsequent passages evidently asserts. “And there shall be born,” he says, “a rod from the root of Jesse”—which rod is Mary—“and a flower shall ascend from his root: and there shall rest upon him the Spirit of God, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of discernment and piety, the spirit of counsel and truth; the spirit of God’s fear shall fill Him.” 1305 For to none of men was the universal aggregation of spiritual credentials appropriate, except to Christ; paralleled as He is to a “flower” by reason of glory, by reason of grace; but accounted “of the root of Jesse,” whence His origin is to be deduced,—to wit, through Mary. 1306 For He was from the native soil of Bethlehem, and from the house of David; as, among the Romans, Mary is described in the census, of whom is born Christ. 1307

I demand, again—granting that He who was ever predicted by prophets as destined to come out of Jesse’s race, was withal to exhibit all humility, patience, and tranquillity—whether He be come? Equally so (in this case as in the former), the man who is shown to bear that character will be the very Christ who is come. For of Him the prophet says, “A man set in a plague, and knowing how to bear infirmity;” who “was led as a sheep for a victim; and, as a lamb before him who sheareth him, opened not His mouth.” 1308 If He “neither did contend nor shout, nor was His voice heard abroad,” who “crushed not the bruised reed”—Israel’s faith, who “quenched not the burning flax” 1309 —that is, the momentary glow of the Gentiles—but made it shine more by the rising of His own light,—He can be none other than He who was predicted. The action, therefore, of the Christ who is come must be examined by being placed side by side with the rule of the Scriptures. For, if I mistake not, we find Him distinguished by a twofold operation,—that of preaching and that of power. Now, let each count be disposed of summarily. Accordingly, let us work out the order we have set down, teaching that Christ was announced as a preacher; as, through Isaiah: “Cry out,” he says, “in vigour, and spare not; lift up, as with a trumpet, thy voice, and announce to my commonalty their crimes, and to the house of Jacob their sins.  Me from day to day they seek, and to learn my ways they covet, as a people which hath done righteousness, and hath not forsaken the judgment of God,” and so forth: 1310 that, moreover, He was to do acts of power from the Father: “Behold, our God will deal retributive judgment; Himself will come and save us:  then shall the infirm be healed, and the eyes of the blind shall see, and the ears of the deaf shall hear, and the mutes’ tongues shall be loosed, and the lame shall leap as an hart,” 1311 and so on; which works not even you deny that Christ did, inasmuch as you were wont to say that, “on account of the works ye stoned Him not, but because He did them on the Sabbaths.” 1312



A virgin,” Eng. ver.; ἡ παρθένος, LXX.; “the virgin,” Lowth.


See Isa. 7:13, 14.


See Matt. i. 23.


See Isa vii. 15.


See Isa. viii. 4. (All these passages should be read in the LXX.)


i.e., of the predicted name. [Here compare Against Marcion, Book III. (vol. vii. Edin. series) Cap. xii. p. 142. See my note (1) on Chapter First; and also Kaye, p. xix.]


In Isa. 8:8, 10, compared with vii. 14 in the Eng. ver. and the LXX., and also Lowth, introductory remarks on ch. viii.


Or, “to call him.”


See adv. Marc. l. iii. c. xiii., which, with the preceding chapter, should be compared throughout with the chapter before us.


Comp. Judg. xiii. 12; Eng. ver. “How shall we order the child?”


Or, “accept.”


See Matt. ii. 1-12.


Of course he ought to have said, “they say.”


Zech. xiv. 14, omitting the last clause.


Ps. lxxii. 15 (lxxi. 15 in LXX.): “Sheba” in Eng. ver.; “Arabia” in the “Great Bible” of 1539; and so the LXX.


Ps. lxxii. 10, in LXX, and “Great Bible;” “Sheba and Seba,” Eng. ver.


Strictly, Tertullian ought to have said “they call,” having above said “Divine scriptures;” as above on the preceding page.


Isa. i. 10.


See Gen. xix. 23-29.


Ezek. 16:3, 45.


Isa. i. 2, as before.




Oehler refers to Isa. xix. 1. See, too, Isa. 30:0, Isa. 31:0.


See Rev. xvii., etc.


Or we may supply here [“Isaiah”].


Or, “he.”


Ps. xlv. 3, clause 1 (in LXX. Ps. xliv. 4).


See Ps. xlv. 2 (xliv. 3 in LXX.).


Ps. xlv. 4 (xliv. 5 in LXX.).


Comp. Heb. 4:12, Rev. 1:16, Rev. 2:12, Rev. 19:15, 21; also Eph. vi. 17.


Comp. Ps. lxii. 12 (lxi. 13 in LXX.); Rom. ii. 6.


See Ps. xlv. 5 (xliv. in LXX.).


Ps. xlv. 5 (xliv. 6 in LXX.).


Traductionem (comp. Heb. iv. 13).


Ps. xlv. 5.


I can find no authority for “appellatus” as a substantive, but such forms are familiar with Tertullian. Or perhaps we may render: “in that He is found to have been likewise called Jesus.”


Auses; Αὐσή in LXX.


Nave; Ναυή in LXX.


Jehoshua, Joshua, Jeshua, Jesus, are all forms of the same name.  But the change from Oshea or Hoshea to Jehoshua appears to have been made when he was sent to spy the land.  See Num. xiii. 16 (17 in LXX., who call it a surnaming).


If Oehler’s “in sæculo desertæ” is to be retained, this appears to be the construction. But this passage, like others above noted, is but a reproduction of parts of the third book in answer to Marcion; and there the reading is “in sæculi desertis”="in the desert places of the world,” or “of heathendom.”


See Ex. iii. 8, and the references there.


See Josh. v. 2-9, especially in LXX. Comp. the margin in the Eng. ver. in ver. 2, “flint knives,” and Wordsworth in loc., who refers to Ex. iv. 25, for which see ch. iii. above.


See especially 1 Cor. x. 4.


Or, “Joshua.”


Comp. Num. xii. 5-8.


Comp. Exod. 33:20, John 1:18, John 14:9, Col. 1:15, Heb. 1:3.


Oehler and others read “celavit”; but the correction of Fr. Junius and Rig., “celabit,” is certainly more agreeable to the LXX. and the Eng. ver.


Exod. 23:20, 21.


Mal. iii. 1: comp. Matt. 11:10, Mark 1:2, Luke 7:27.


See Ps. cxxxii. 17 (cxxi. 17 in LXX.).


Matt. v. 17, briefly; a very favourite reference with Tertullian.


John v. 35, ὁ λύχνος ὁ καιόμενος καὶ φαίνων.


Comp. reference 8, p. 232; and Isa. 40:3, John 1:23.


See John 1:29, 36.




See Isa. 11:1, 2, especially in LXX.


See Luke i. 27.


See Luke ii. 1-7.


See Isa. 53:3, 7, in LXX.; and comp. Ps. xxxviii. 17 (xxxvii. 18 in LXX.) in the “Great Bible” of 1539.


See Isa. 42:2, 3, and Matt. 12:19, 20.


See Isa. 58:1, 2, especially in LXX.


See Isa. 35:4, 5, 6.


See John 5:17, 18, John 10:31.

Next: Concerning the Passion of Christ, and Its Old Testament Predictions and Adumbrations.

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