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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part I: The Main Points of Our Author's Subject. On the Sexes of the Human Race.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXXVI.—The Main Points of Our Author’s Subject. On the Sexes of the Human Race.

For the discussion of these questions we abandoned, if I remember rightly, ground to which we must now return. We had established the position that the soul is seminally placed in man, and by human agency, and that its seed from the very beginning is uniform, as is that of the soul also, to the race of man; (and this we settled) owing to the rival opinions of the philosophers and the heretics, and that ancient saying mentioned by Plato (to which we referred above). 1742 We now pursue in their order the points which follow from them. The soul, being sown in the womb at the same time as the body, receives likewise along with it its sex; and this indeed so simultaneously, that neither of the two substances can be alone regarded as the cause of the sex.  Now, if in the semination of these substances any interval were admissible in their conception, in such wise that either the flesh or the soul should be the first to be conceived, one might then ascribe an especial sex to one of the substances, owing to the difference in the time of the impregnations, so that either the flesh would impress its sex upon the soul, or the soul upon the sex; even as Apelles (the heretic, not the painter 1743 ) gives the priority over their bodies to the souls of men and women, as he had been taught by Philumena, and in consequence makes the flesh, as the later, receive its sex from the soul. They also who make the soul supervene after birth on the flesh predetermine, of course, the sex of the previously formed soul to be male or female, according to (the sex of) the flesh. But the truth is, the seminations of the two substances are inseparable in point of time, and their effusion is also one and the same, in consequence of which a community of gender is secured to them; so that the course of nature, whatever that be, shall draw the line (for the distinct sexes).  Certainly in this view we have an attestation of the method of the first two formations, when the male was moulded and tempered in a completer way, for Adam was first formed; and the woman came far behind him, for Eve was the later formed. So that her flesh was for a long time without specific form (such as she afterwards assumed when taken out of Adam’s side); but she was even then herself a living being, because I should regard her at that time in soul as even a portion of Adam. Besides, God’s afflatus would have animated her too, if there had not been in the woman a transmission from Adam of his soul also as well as of his flesh.



In ch. xxviii. at the beginning.


See above, ch. xxiii. [Also p. 246, infra.]

Next: On the Formation and State of the Embryo. Its Relation with the Subject of This Treatise.

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